Lung Capacity – How Can I Maximize It?

September 11th, 2014 | Author: COPD Coach

Dear COPD Coach,

If I follow my treatment plan, how much lung capacity should I expect to have on an average day?

-Strengthening the lungs

Dear Strengthening,

Generally, once lung function is gone, it is gone for good. While we cannot control this factor, we can control how efficiently our body is able to utilize our remaining lung capacity. A regular exercise program builds our muscles to a point where they work more efficiently and therefore require less oxygen, which in turn causes us to be less out of breath. I know that exercise for many is very daunting and frightening. Let’s face it, when you are having a hard time

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breathing, the last thing you want to think about is exercising! Even if you have more advanced COPD, there are simple exercises that will not only improve your breathing, but also your overall health. For those with very limited mobility, there are simple chair exercises that can really make a difference. Talk with your doctor or respiratory therapist about exercises you can do that are safe, comfortable and effective for you.

Your lung function can actually vary during various times of the day. Some experience more breathlessness in the mornings while others have difficulty at different times during the day or evening. If you need to do a pulmonary function test, schedule the test at a time when your breathing is usually better. Also, do not schedule a routine pulmonary function test when you are feeling ill or are recovering from an exacerbation.

Schedule activities during times when your breathing is better. If you start to get out of breath while doing activities, immediately stop, do pursed lips breathing, and when recovered resume at a slower pace.

One last thing, during times of high pollen or pollution, or in many cases extreme cold or high heat and humidity, expect your breathing to be more difficult — avoid going out during these times.

Remember, while COPD is not yet curable, it is treatable — and in reality, you have a great deal of control over how much lung capacity you can retain.

Best wishes,
The COPD Coach

Ask the Expert is aimed at providing information for individuals with COPD to take to your doctor, and is not in any way intended to be medical advice.

If you would like to submit a question to the Coaches Corner email us at coachescorner@copdfoundation.org. We would love to hear your questions and comments. You can address your emails to any of the following: COPD Coach, Caregiver Coach, COPD Doctor or COPD RT.

Young with COPD?

September 4th, 2014 | Author: COPD Coach

Dear COPD Coach,

I was born with lung “issues” growing up, and doctors told my parents I had asthma. Over time my breathing just kept getting worse. As a result, I have never smoked a single cigarette, and I have never been around people who smoked.  In 2009 I was in the hospital for pneumonia and doctors took x-rays and CT scans of my lungs. Soon after they dropped the bomb – I had COPD. I was born in 1977, and always thought COPD was a disease that only affected people in their 60s and 70s. I was tested for Alpha-1 and the results came back “abnormal.”

How rare is for a non-smoker my age to have COPD?

-Perplexed

Dear Perplexed,

It is far more common for young people to be diagnosed with COPD than ever before. This is due in large part to more awareness of COPD in recent years by both health care professionals and the public. COPD has historically been perceived as an “old person’s disease,” but we are learning this is not always the case. In fact, the average COPD patient is between 45-55 years of age. Oftentimes, symptoms of early lung disease are not recognized by the individual until the disease is much more advanced, even to the point of being debilitating later in life. It is very easy to justify our symptoms by thinking we are out of shape, prone to colds and flu. Most often, we become “great compensators,” and if we get out of breath doing an activity, we make sure to avoid that activity in the future. The truth is that the earlier COPD is diagnosed and treated, the better the prognosis! Early treatment along with life-style adjustments can slow the progression of lung damago-ASTHMA-facebooke!

Alpha-1 Anti-trypsin Deficiency is one cause of early diagnosis for COPD. Alpha-1 is a genetic form of COPD caused by producing too little anti-trypsin, no anti-trypsin, or a mutated version of anti-trypsin (which often causes liver problems). Anti-trypsin is a protein produced in the liver that travels through the bloodstream and protects our organs from the effects of other proteins, particularly the lungs. The absence of or reduced amount of anti-trypsin can result in early emphysema.

Alpha-1 is considered to be a “rare” disease, and many Alphas’ go years before diagnosis is finally made. By this time, the damage to the lungs is usually more severe. Many are never diagnosed! Alpha-1 is often the cause of liver disease, and a leading cause of liver disease in infants and young children. The only cure for Alpha is a liver transplant.

While all of this information might seem like “gloom and doom” – there is some hope. Augmentation therapy is available that replaces the anti-trypsin, and has been found to slow down the progression of further lung damage. Research into Alpa-1 has been greatly expanded, which also shows promising results. Alphas experience an unparalleled support system through the Alpha-1 Foundation and Alpha-Net through sponsored research, education days, genetic counseling, educational materials and conferences.

Since Alpha-1 is an inherited genetic disease, the Alpha-1 Foundation advocates early testing, especially in families with a history of lung disease. Children of Alphas should be tested because even if one parent carries the gene, the children can be carriers and pass the gene on to their offspring. Carriers of Alpha-1 can also experience some of the same symptoms of Alphas and some even require the same augmentation therapy.

I would encourage you to get in contact with the Alpha-1 Foundation and gather more information. Ask your doctor to explore if augmentation therapy as well.

The COPD Foundation encourages all COPD patients, especially those with a family history of lung disease to be tested for Alpha-1.

Hope this helps, and my very best wishes.

-The COPD Coach

Ask the Expert is aimed at providing information for individuals with COPD to take to your doctor, and is not in any way intended to be medical advice.

If you would like to submit a question to the Coaches Corner email us at coachescorner@copdfoundation.org. We would love to hear your questions and comments. You can address your emails to any of the following: COPD Coach, Caregiver Coach, COPD Doctor or COPD RT.

Pam DeNardo: A Decade of Helping Individuals with COPD

August 11th, 2014 | Author: Fabiana Talbot

This excerpt was drawn from the Spring 2014 issue of the COPD Digest.

When Pam DeNardo was diagnosed with COPD in 1999, there were scant resources available. She had to do her own research—teaching herself about medications, inhalers, and pulmonary rehabilitation, a task she said was daunting and scary without guidance or any references.

“I was terrified. Mpamdenardoy doctor said that at best I had three to five years to live,” DeNardo says. “’Incurable’— that’s all I could think of. Except, I couldn’t die. I was a single mother of two, I had a mother in her 90s who needed me, and a small insurance business that had just turned the corner and was making money. I simply could not be sick, and I could not die.”

Today, DeNardo is one of 35 associates who work on the COPD Foundation’s C.O.P.D. Information Line. When it was created in 2007, they averaged 300 inbound calls every month. Today, the associates field anywhere between 5,000-6,000 contacts each month. DeNardo was one of the driving forces behind the creation of the Information Line.

“Today, patients are still scared. You can hear that when they call the Info Line. The best thing is when I get a call from a newly diagnosed patient, because I can tell them I’ve had the diagnosis for 15 years, and you can hear the relief in their voices,” she says. “The Information Line, to me, is the culmination of everything I believed in.”

phoneIn 2007, she met with Bill Clark, director of outreach programs at the COPD Foundation, and John and Diane Walsh, and together, they recruited patients, set up the toll-free line for support and information, and the Information Line was born.

“The Foundation will continue to grow, and I believe it [a cure] will happen. And I hope to be there. I’m working hard to be there,” DeNardo says.

Read on about Pam’s journey on the COPD Digest website.

It’s Too Darn Hot!

August 5th, 2014 | Author: COPD Coach

Dear COPD Coach,

I try to stay as active as possible, but it has been extremely hot and humid, making it hard to breathe.  What are some things I can do inside to stay active but cool?

-Doing my best

Dear Doing my best,

If there is one thing that is true with COPD, it is that it affects people in different ways.  Some COPD patients are not able to handle hot and humid environments, while others cannot handle extreme cold weather.  Many cannot handle both, and some do not experience any difficulty with either one.

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I am one of those who cannot handle either extreme hot and humid weather, but I fare far worse in very cold weather.  In any case, hot weather, especially accompanied by high humidity, and cold weather below freezing will cause many with COPD to experience problems breathing.  Many COPD patients can tell you when the weather is changing simply based of the quality of their breathing!  Many people with COPD also experience problems on windy days, as the wind velocity produces resistance – worsening breathing.  High winds combined with extreme hot humid air or cold air, can often cause your breathing to significantly decline.

During periods of extreme weather, time your outside activities during moderate times, and remain in a more climate environment (indoors) during the worst of the weather.  If you do venture out, limit your exposure to extreme temperatures as much as possible and dress appropriately.

As for activities indoors during weather extremes, you might try simple exercises, like chair exercises or lifting small weights (talk with your doctor or respiratory therapist as to what type of exercises would provide you with the most benefit).  During hot weather, try and have at least one room with an air conditioner that you can retreat to if you begin to feel warm.

It is important to note that showering or bathing in hot water can actually simulate hot, humid weather and cause you to become breathless.  If you become breathless while showering or bathing, use colder water and make sure your bathroom has an exhaust fan!

In all, avoiding weather extremes as much as possible will make your breathing much easier.

Stay Cool,
The COPD Coach

Ask the Expert is aimed at providing information for individuals with COPD to take to your doctor, and is not in any way intended to be medical advice.

If you would like to submit a question to the Coaches Corner email us at coachescorner@copdfoundation.org. We would love to hear your questions and comments. You can address your emails to any of the following: COPD Coach, Caregiver Coach, COPD Doctor or COPD RT.

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