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Coping with COPD

By Staff | Nov 30, 2010

Jaime Kelly, a cardiac rehab therapist with Susquehanna Health, shows seniors at the Life Center on World COPD Day how much easier it is on muscles and joints to use resistance bands for strength training.

MUNCY – This is the year of the lung stated pulmonary therapist, Peggy Winder with Susquehanna Heath as she welcomed guests to COPD day at the Life Center.

Free breathing tests were administered to the public on Nov. 17 from 10 to 2 in honor of World COPD Day.

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease affects more than 50 million people and studies show that half of these people don’t even know it. The disease is not curable but treatable and can be recognized by simple screenings such as a painless breathing test. If detected a more formal test called a spirometry at a lab can be performed. Usually the onset of chronic bronchitis, emphysema or asthma can lead to COPD noted Winder.

With proper care and medications, COPD can help a person who is breathless, not helpless. Symptoms include shortness of breath, chronic coughing and phlegm and mucus is being produced all the time. “This affects several areas of the lung causing blockage of airways, wheezing and spasms,” Winder explained.

Air quality is important for those suffering from COPD. Those who smoke need to quit immediately,” said Dr. Marius Figueredo, a Pulmomologist with Susquehanna Health Lung Center. “Smoking accounts for 80 to 90 percent of cases,” he added.

Some industries, occupational dust and air pollution also lead to the disease. Farmers who are around hay a lot can get COPD and the baking industry causes breathing difficulties as one is constantly exposed to flour particles that are breathed into the lungs.

Rehab and exercise are one of the best remedies for COPD. Lack of activity will only aggravate the problem Dr. Figuerdo explained. Muscles need to be kept strong. Build an exercise program up to 4 times a week and rehab can help chronic sufferers cope. With a personal trainer, exercises can be administered and continued at home. The resistance bands are very popular and easy to carry.

Jaime Kelly, an RN and exercise trainer with Cardiac and Pulmonary at Susquehanna Health demonstrated the Thera-bands to seniors using some simple techniques to strengthen the upper body, starting with the head and neck.

“These exercises are designed to help you and can prevent a downward spiral,” said Kelly. “Stretch each muscle for about 15 to 20 seconds. Thera bands are mobile, inexpensive and easy to find. You can take them anywhere.”

The disease was first diagnosed in the 50’s and 60’s and it will become the third leading cause of death by 2020 according to Dr. Figueredo. Extensive damage occurs in the lung, air flow is restricted and severe inflammation takes place. Inhaling smoke eventually damages the tiny air sacs and the air way linings begin to swell, mucus builds, and old air cannot escape. “The airways will collapse like a floppy hose leaving no surface area for gas and oxygen exchange,” explained Figueredo. “It is a downward spiral leading to a cycle of inactivity, deconditioning and a worsening of breathlessness.”

The important thing is to get active and get treatments. “This will slow down the progression of chronic inflammation,” noted Dr. Figueredo. Medications, inhaled steroids and bronchodilators can open the air passages. For prevention, he recommends flu shots and pneumococcal vaccines if 65 years or older. For severe cases oxygen is needed 15 hours a day for survival.

Living with COPD

Avoid lung irritants such as cooking or heating fumes, dust and cold dry air. Improve the indoor quality of air in the home with regular maintenance. Do breathing exercises, take regular walks to your ability and eat healthy.

Maximize each breath and perform activities slowly. Keep items within easy reach and find simple ways to do routine chores.

Watch for signs of an infection, fever, coughing, more mucus and more difficulty breathing.

Including exercises, Winder announced that there is more information available at www.goCOPD.org and www.learnaboutCOPD.com.