Lifestyle changes for carriers
While lifestyle changes cannot cure Alpha-1, they can reduce the impact of low-AAT on your body:
Protect your lungs from irritants
Smoking increases the amount of neutrophil elastase in your lungs and may speed up the progression of lung damage. Quitting may not be easy, but it may be done. Don't give up if your first attempt to stop smoking fails. Keep trying and chances are you will be successful. Discuss therapeutic and behavior modification programs with your doctor.1
Smoking accelerates the damage to your lungs. See what effect smoking has on your lung function and how it destroys the lung.
Second-hand smoke is dangerous if you have Alpha-1. If someone in your household smokes, ask them to stop, or step outside when smoking, or avoid them when they smoke.1
If you live in the United States, call the American Lung Association (800-LUNG-USA, 800-586-4872) or get more information about quitting on their Web site.
Prevent infections and treat them aggressively. Your body responds to infection by producing white blood cells that release neutrophil elastase, which can damage your lungs. Call your doctor at the earliest signs of cold or flu. Follow your doctor's advice for appropriate treatment. Ask about vaccines for flu and pneumonia. Avoid contact with people with colds. Washing your hands helps.1
Avoid environmental pollutants, both at home and in the workplace, if possible.
- Formaldehyde is a common chemical found in glues for building and furnishing products, including carpets, upholstery, particle board, and plywood. These products can release formaldehyde into the air, causing lung irritation.3
- Asbestos mineral fibers are used in roofing and flooring materials, wall and pipe insulation, spackling compounds, cement, coating materials, heating equipment, and acoustic insulation. Asbestos fibers are released into the air if the material is disturbed or disintegrates with age. When inhaled, asbestos fibers scar the lungs, causing cancer of the lungs or abdominal cavity.4
- Pollutants in the workplace are harmful if you have Alpha-1. Wear a mask around dust or vapors. Ask to be moved to a place with more favorable conditions. Consult an environmental or occupational physician, if necessary.1
- Air pollution can hurt if you have Alpha-1. Stay indoors when ozone values are too high. Consider moving to a less polluted area.1
- Wood stoves generate harmful, lung-damaging smoke particles.1
- Home heating and air conditioning filters must be changed on a regular basis to reduce inhaled particles.1
Stop drinking or cut back on alcohol
Alcohol puts a strain on your liver, which may already be stressed because you're a carrier for Alpha-1. If you have established liver disease, your goal should be to eliminate alcohol.1
Maintain proper weight
Weight loss is a common problem in patients with chronic lung diseases; up to 40% of patients have progressive weight loss. One theory is that carriers take in fewer calories. Another is that patients with chronic lung diseases burn more calories because they use more energy breathing. What may be enough for a person with normal lung function may not be enough for a carrier with Alpha-1. Tailor your dietary habits to your personal needs to maintain proper weight.
Routine exercise improves mental outlook, stamina and physical well-being. The long-term benefits are significant.
The right amount of exercise is different for each individual depending on their ability and goals. Think about your health and exercise goals and tailor a program to meet those goals.