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Living With Chronic Bronchitis

If you have chronic bronchitis, you can take steps to control your symptoms. Lifestyle changes and ongoing care can help you manage the condition.

Lifestyle Changes

The most important step is to not start smoking or to quit smoking. Talk with your doctor about programs and products that can help you quit.

For more information about how to quit smoking, go to the Diseases and Conditions Index Smoking and Your Heart article and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute's (NHLBI's) "Your Guide to a Healthy Heart." Although these resources focus on heart health, they include general information about how to quit smoking.

Also, try to avoid other lung irritants, such as secondhand smoke, dust, fumes, vapors, and air pollution. This will help keep your lungs healthy.

Wash your hands often to lower your risk for a viral or bacterial infection. Also, try to stay away from people who have colds or the flu. See your doctor right away if you have signs or symptoms of a cold or the flu.

Follow a healthy diet and be as physically active as you can. A healthy diet includes a variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. It also includes lean meats, poultry, fish, and fat-free or low-fat milk or milk products. A healthy diet also is low in saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium (salt), and added sugar.

For more information about following a healthy diet, go to the NHLBI's Aim for a Healthy Weight Web site, "Your Guide to a Healthy Heart," and "Your Guide to Lowering Your Blood Pressure With DASH." All of these resources include general advice about healthy eating.

Ongoing Care

See your doctor regularly and take all of your medicines as prescribed. Also, talk with your doctor about getting a yearly flu shot and a pneumonia vaccine.

If you have chronic bronchitis, you may benefit from pulmonary rehabilitation (PR). PR is a broad program that helps improve the well-being of people who have chronic (ongoing) breathing problems.

People who have chronic bronchitis often breathe fast. Talk with your doctor about a breathing method called pursed-lip breathing. This method decreases how often you take breaths, and it helps keep your airways open longer. This allows more air to flow in and out of your lungs so you can be more physically active.

To do pursed-lip breathing, you breathe in through your nostrils. Then you slowly breathe out through slightly pursed lips, as if you're blowing out a candle. You exhale two to three times longer than you inhale. Some people find it helpful to count to two while inhaling and to four or six while exhaling.

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Last Updated: August 4, 2011