Is Stress Making My COPD Worse?

October 15th, 2014 | Author: COPD Coach

Dear COPD Coach,

I have been living with COPD for several years and find that it is getting harder to breathe. This is making me feel very stressed, and I think the stress alone is making my symptoms worse. Do you have any advice on how to stop it?

-Stressed

Dear Stressed,

The mechanism you are referring to works something like this. You have difficulty breathing or get out of breath andbreathing become stressed, which in turn causes even more difficulty breathing, which then causes more stress — until it spirals out of control. There is probably no worse feeling than not being able to breathe!

The progression of COPD along with breathing difficulties is often slow, but in some cases progresses more quickly. Adapting to this change can be difficult and might require some action on your part. When you start feeling anxious or stressed, give yourself a “time out.” Sit, relax and try pursed lips breathing until the stress or anxiety passes. You might also try taking your mind off your breathing by reading or watching a movie or TV show.

If you still are not able to control the stress and anxiety, you might consider talking with your doctor about medication to “take the edge off” the stress and anxiety attacks and help you cope better.

You might also consider joining a support group if you have one in your area, or getting involved in a pulmonary education program where you can interact with others who have COPD. The camaraderie and interaction can be very beneficial!

Lastly, please know that you are not alone. If you need us, we are just a phone call away by calling our C.O.P.D. Information Line at 866-316 COPD (2673), staffed by COPD patients and open from 9AM until 9PM EST. Associates are trained to help and can always offer some great advice or support.

Take Care!
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.

Lifestyle Changes and COPD

October 9th, 2014 | Author: COPD Coach

Dear COPD Coach,

I was diagnosed with COPD last week. There is still so much for me to learn and figure out. What lifestyle changes will I need to make?

-Changes

Dear Changes,

You are right in saying there is a lot to learn. The more you are able to learn, the more you will be in a better position to manage your COPD. COPD isn’t a death sentence, but it certainly requires a lifestyle change.

  1. Avoid strong chemical odors. This would include strong cleaning solutions, solvents, perfumes. Also avoid pollution, pollen, wood smoke, dust and anything that irritates your lungs
  2. If you smoke, quit! Avoid second- and even third-hand smoke.
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  3. Take your medications as prescribed.
  4. Eat a balanced diet and avoid foods that cause you to feel bloated. Try eating several small meals throughout the day and avoid large meals.
  5. Exercise is very important for COPD management. By keeping your muscles toned, they require less oxygen and therefore you will not get out of breath as much during exertion. (Speak with your doctor or respiratory therapist about what exercise would work best for you).
  6. Avoid sick people, and when out and about, wash your hands regularly. If necessary, carry a small bottle of hand cleaner. Wearing a mask when out among large groups of people is always a good idea.
  7. Try to stay indoors during high pollen or high pollution times. Also avoid going out in extreme heat or cold, as you may experience difficulty breathing.
  8. Get educated! Learn to spot the signs of an exacerbation (times when your breathing becomes worse) and contact your doctor before it becomes serious
  9. Use your supplemental oxygen as prescribed.
  10. Get involved with a local COPD community support group.

By following these steps, you can greatly affect the progression of your COPD. If you have any questions, call our C.O.P.D. Information Line (866-316-2763) which is staffed by COPD patients and caregivers. A great source of information is our Big Fat Reference Guide, which can be downloaded free from our website

Lastly, please always remember you are not alone. We are here to help if you need us!

- 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.

Staying Healthy with COPD

October 1st, 2014 | Author: COPD Coach

Dear COPD Coach,

Having lived with COPD for some time, I do my best to avoid colds and other infections that can aggravate my COPD. Do you have any suggestions?

-Staying Healthy

Dear Staying Healthy,

Because COPD often affects our immune system, as well as our ability to recover from common illnesses, you are very right to be vigilant. Avoiding sick people is certainly a good start! However that is certainly not all you can do to remain healthy. Here imagesare some tips to safeguard your health and avoid exacerbations (times when your symptoms become worse):

  1. Washing your hands regularly is considered to be a good first line defense! Germs are often transmitted through things we touch. Something as simple as a shopping cart handle, or even a doorknob, can harbor germs.  These germs are then entered into our respiratory tract when we touch our face. Washing your hands regularly will reduce the likelihood of catching an illness.
  2. As you mentioned, avoid people who are sick. Consider wearing a surgical masks when you are around large groups of people during peak cold and flu seasons.
  3. Learn to spot the signs of an exacerbation. Key signs include: difficulty breathing for a longer period of time, a change in the color of mucus (please keep in mind, early morning mucus tends to be darker than later in the day and is normal), increased congestion, or more coughing than normal. If any of these signs are present, contact your doctor.
  4. Diet is very important in COPD management. Because a person with COPD  uses a large amount of calories just to breathe, it is important that you get enough “healthy” calories each day to offset this deficit. You should be eating balanced meals. Your meals should also be smaller and more frequent throughout the day. Large meals can actually cause breathlessness (if you use oxygen, wear it while you eat) and digesting large meals actually consumes a large amount of calories that you need to breathe.
  5. Get into a regular exercise routine. The best tool here is respiratory therapy but if you don’t qualify or cannot afford it, you can always exercise on your own. Speak with your doctor or a respiratory therapist about an exercise routine that is safe, comfortable and effective for you.
  6. If you smoke, quit. Avoid secondhand smoke, strong chemical odors including perfumes and strong cleaning solutions dust and pollution. All can worsen your breathing!
  7. Lastly get educated about COPD. A good source of information  is our COPD Big Fat Reference Guide available for free download from our website.
  8. Take your medications as directed. If a certain medication does not seem to offer you the relief you expect, talk with your doctor. Medication for COPD is not always a “one size fits all” proposition and there might well be a medication that will work better for you.

Hope this helps. If you have any questions, call our C.O.P.D. Information Line at 866-316-2673, open 9 -9 EST.

-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.

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.