In writing my blog I have done many posts on how to improve your life with COPD they can all be found in the Archives please take a look there is a lot of interesting information in there. Recently, I have seen this piece on My COPD Team which really compliments some of my posts with further help and advise. COPD is not a great illness to be landed with and many Doctors and Nurses do not really understand how the lungs work and how you can improve your situation. You may only be told the basics like stopping smoking and keeping an eye on your symptoms. But, there is a great deal more to help out there and I want to equip everyone with the knowledge of how to live a good and active as life as possible. This piece from My COPD Team is especially good and this is just part one I will follow with the rest as it is put out there. Also see my links throughout this page for associated posts that I have done on this topic.
A Quick Overview of COPD
How does COPD impact your health? COPD is an umbrella term used to describe a progressive inflammatory lung disease that causes airflow to be restricted to your lungs. COPD includes emphysema, chronic bronchitis, refractory asthma, and some forms of bronchiectasis. COPD is also a comorbid disease that impacts multiple systems in your body and is the fourth leading course of death Globally.
Often patients aren’t just faced with COPD. Other conditions (comorbidities) may include high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart disease, osteoporosis, depression, and cancer, (no need to worry about this too much because the public in general are at risk of all these types of illnesses anyway but having COPD as well just doesn’t help the situation). An example of this is I ended up in my 50s with cataracts this was due to steroids I had been on.
There is no cure for COPD; however, with proper treatment and disease management, you will be able to live an enjoyable life according to your terms.
Tips to Help You Succeed in Disease Management
- Search for help: You should not face COPD alone, it is much more difficult to do that way. Trust me I tried for a few years. To help you succeed in COPD management, you should always be willing to seek help. MyCOPDTeam is a good course for online support and dont forget Facebook groups they are a vital life line also. The British Lung Foundation for all of those readers in the UK is also another fantastic group. You can ring them for advice, book a call back from a nurse or join in the group talks.
- Motivation is key: You should always be self-motivated enough to seek additional treatment options and be willing to take the necessary extra step to improve your disease. I am travelling back and forwards to London as I am to have LRS which should put me back a few years, what a relief! There are a lot of different things that can be done to help.
- Stick to instructions: Your caregivers and doctors have extremely valuable advice and instructions that you should strictly follow to enhance the overall quality of your life.
- Research persistently: This is key! Take the initiative to constantly educate yourself on ways you can improve your overall health. Then you should consult with your team of doctors about your newfound knowledge. This is why I run this blog because I am doing some of it for you. For those patients who are not ICT friendly it is harder. See – Lung Reduction Surgery, Valves, Coils and Further New Developments
What is a COPD Management Team?
A COPD management team simply refers to the team of doctors or specialists you see. Each provides helpful insight into the different aspects of your disease management.
A COPD management team may consist of a combination of the following health professionals –
Physician (In the UK we have Respiratory Consultants of which I have 2. One in London and one locally)
Respiratory therapist (I have a pulmonary physiotherapist)
Case manager (Think this is the equivalent of our GP)
Registered nurse or Community Matron for us in the UK (Our hospital has respiratory nurses that come out into the community, many help with patients who need oxygen)
Registered dietitian (Accessed from the hospital for people with major weight loss and gain)
Occupational therapist (I have consulted one from our local council for helpful items around the home, like my downstairs cloakroom) see My downstairs toilet saga!
Pharmacist ( I have a group called Medicines to Home they are great and I just ring them up as and when I need anything) and they deliver medications to the house.
Now that you are aware of your COPD management team and the tips you need to succeed in disease management, let’s discuss the steps you need to take so you can start managing your COPD like a respiratory therapist.
Minimize the Occurrence of COPD Exacerbations (Flare-ups)
When it comes to COPD, there is nothing that can impact your symptoms more than an exacerbation. The event of an exacerbation is defined as the sudden worsening of felt symptoms – mainly breathlessness, cough, and mucus production – that rapidly accelerate lung deterioration. Flare-ups are mainly caused by exposure to COPD triggers or when developing a viral or bacterial infection such as influenza, the common cold, or pneumonia.
Though flare-ups cannot be completely prevented, there are steps that you can take to help prevent the occurrence of symptom worsening flare-ups. Things like smoking cessation, avoiding COPD triggers, receiving flu and pneumonia vaccinations, and taking prescribed medications. See – MY STOPPING SMOKING SAGA- If I can stop anyone can!
Indoor COPD triggers to avoid:
Chemical fumes (cleaning products, paints)
Products with added fragrances (candles, perfumes, air fresheners)
Pollution indoors (cleaning fumes, fireplace)
Outdoor COPD triggers to avoid:
Extreme heat or cold
Air pollution (car exhaust, factory pollution)
High pollen counts
In case you didn’t know, smoking tobacco is the main cause of COPD and is responsible for as many as nine out of 10 COPD-related deaths, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Women are especially prone to lung damage from smoking, since their lungs are smaller, and lung disease is worsened by estrogen. Deaths from COPD in women are higher than in men. If you are struggling to quit despite all efforts, speak with your doctor about possible smoking cessation programs. MAKING LIFE EASIER AND TAKING CONTROL – 10 simple ways to improve your life!
Tips to quit smoking see Nicotine Addiction 101 – Best piece I Have Read On Nicotine Dependency!
Avoid smoking triggers
Stay clear of the smoking section
Get assistance to quit by calling 1-800-QUIT-NOW
Nicotine replacement therapy
Ask your loved ones for support
Eat fruits and vegetables
Never give up
Pulmonary rehab (PR) is a perfect example of a COPD management team in action. With multidisciplinary teams, your treatment is optimized to enhance your physical and social functioning. Pulmonary rehab may be inpatient, outpatient, or home-based. Many types of exercise are great for COPD see picture above featuring the COPD Athlete who runs marathons and the Wigan Warblers who exercise their lungs singing. Most PR programs include at least three sessions per week for a minimum of six weeks. It is highly recommended that every patient diagnosed with COPD go through their local PR program. The British Lung Foundation run their ‘Breathe Easy’ weekly courses in most large towns I am trying to set one up in Huddersfield at the moment. because 6 weeks is not enough. People need to be exercising as much as they can.
Pulmonary rehab will teach you about medications, using oxygen therapy, preventing exacerbations, proper dieting and exercise, breathing techniques that reduce breathlessness, and symptom assessment so you know when to seek medical attention. PR also offers psychological support, since COPD patients are more likely to develop depression, anxiety, or other emotional problems.
Still not convinced pulmonary rehab is for you? To help with management after completing rehab, an exercise and diet plan will be developed specifically for your health needs. Plus you will be in an environment with like-minded patients who know your struggle. Who knows? You may even make a few friends in the process – which improves mental health.
Benefits of pulmonary rehab:
Learn how to function better in day to day life
Increased exercise tolerance
Anxiety and depression management
Reduced occurrence of exacerbations
Diet and exercise plan tailored to your specific needs
Meet like-minded COPD patients
Peace of mind thanks to support from specialists
How to Manage Your COPD Like a Respiratory Therapist – Part 2
This post originally comes from The COPD Team its a great site for meeting people and also for gaining that very important knowledge that can make your quality of life much better. About the Author: Eden Coleman is a dedicated content developer for COPDStore.com, where he pursues his passion of providing actionable and benefit-driven customer education tips for respiratory and obstructed sleep apnea (OSA) patients. Check out the latest actionable posts from the COPD Store.
This is part 2 in our series: How to Manage Your COPD like a Respiratory Therapist. Here are the next steps to manage your COPD well:
Follow a Proper Diet Regimen
It’s vital to equip your body with a properly designed diet that will supplement your most important depleted nutrients. Then it’s up to you to follow through with it.
Indulge in the following nutrients:
- Protein – Low fat proteins including lean-cut meats, poultry, eggs, and fish, specifically salmon, sardines, and mackerel, play an essential role in protecting your body. Protein produces antibodies that help your body fight off symptom worsening infections.
- Whole grain foods – Not only are whole-grain bread, brown rice, bran, and oats rich in whole grains, they are loaded with fiber, which will enhance your digestive system function.
- Fresh fruits and vegetables – Didn’t your mother ever tell you to eat your fruits and veggies? Well, nothing has changed. These natural powerhouses contain essential minerals, vitamins, and fiber that come together to keep your body healthy. Incorporate beets, corn, carrots, oranges, bananas, strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries, to name a few.
- Potassium-rich foods – In order for your muscles to properly contract, especially for the heart muscle, potassium is vital. A few great sources of protein to include in your diet are yogurt, milk, tomatoes, bananas, grapefruit, oranges, avocados, squash, and dark leafy greens.
- Magnesium – Combined with calcium the two work together to more effectively regulate lung function (producing an antihistamine like effect), muscle contractions, and even blood clotting. Magnesium is also involved in protein production, which is why it is referred to as the chemical fuel to making muscles function. The recommended daily intake of magnesium is 420 mg daily for men and 320 mg for women older than 31. The largest intake of fiber can be found in dark leafy greens. While other sources include whole grains, tofu, lentils, peas, nuts, dried fruit, yogurt, and bananas.
- Potassium – This extremely important nutrient is a must for muscle contractions in the body, especially for your heart. Having either low or high levels of potassium can lead to very serious irregularities of heartbeat. Exceptional sources of potassium are milk, yogurt, oranges, prunes, carrots, dark leafy greens, fish, bananas, and avocados.
- Calcium – In addition to working in congruence with magnesium to regulate lung function, muscle contractions, and blood clotting, calcium also plays a role in increasing the strength of your bones. Calcium is very important as COPD patients are also commonly diagnosed with osteoporosis. The major source of calcium is dairy products such as milk, cheese, and yogurt. You should also keep in mind that your body won’t necessarily absorb all of the calcium you take in. You can assist calcium absorption by taking regular vitamin D supplements.
Minimize your intake of the following:
- Fried and greasy foods – Not only is fried food loaded with artery clogging fats and grease, but they can also lead to gas and indigestion.
- Spicy foods – Spicy foods have been reported to affect breathing and cause discomfort.
- Sodium – An excessive intake of salt/sodium can lead to something called “fluid retention,” when your body retains excess water, often impacting your ability to breathe. Instead, substitute the salt shaker with unsalted herbs and spices. Just check with your doctor to make sure these sodium substitutes don’t contain ingredients that are damaging to your health. Aim to eat food that has less than 300 mg of sodium per serving.
- Dairy products – If you notice that consumption of dairy products such as cheese and milk cause phlegm to be thicker, you should try to limit dairy consumption. However, if dairy products do not worsen phlegm, you can continue to eat them.
- Certain vegetables – There are some vegetables that you may notice cause excess bloating and gas, which worsen your ability to breathe. Though not all patients experience this, some do. Beans, cabbage, corn, onions, peas, and lentils are a few of the vegetables whose affects you should pay attention to. If you don’t experience gas or bloating after eating specific vegetables, you can continue to enjoy them.
- Certain fruits – There are certain fruits that may cause bloating and gas, mainly apples, melons, and avocados. However if you do not experience gas or bloating, you can continue to eat these tasty fresh fruits.
After completing pulmonary rehab it doesn’t mean you should stop exercising. In fact it’s quite the opposite. Exercise will improve your breathing, overall mood, weight management, and physical endurance which will reduce the occurrence of COPD related fatigue. Following your exercise plan after pulmonary rehab is vital for continuing the improvement and management of your COPD. While exercising remember everything you were taught in PR to manage your breathlessness. You should gradually work up to exercising for 20 to 30 minutes, at minimum three to four times per week.
Beneficial types of exercise:
- Stretching – Before starting to exercise, you should take at least 5 to 10 minutes to stretch your muscles. Also stretch after your exercise has concluded.
- Strengthening – These types of exercises are important, especially in the upper body, in people with COPD. Strengthening your upper body will strengthen your respiratory muscles.
- Cardiovascular or aerobic – Exercises such as walking, jogging, or biking are phenomenal exercises that strengthen your heart and lungs, while improving your body’s ability to use oxygen effectively. With a consistent effort, aerobic exercises will also reduce your heart rate and blood pressure.
Tips to improve the effectiveness of exercise:
- Gradually work up to your desired activity level
- Choose an activity that you enjoy
- Exercise at a steady pace
- Use breathing techniques at the first sign of breathlessness
- Keep records of your exercising
- When exercising outside, dress appropriate for the weather
Harness the Power of Breathing Techniques
As you go through your day-to-day routine, if you suddenly experience an increase in breathlessness, there are a couple breathing techniques that you can perform that will help to reduce your shortness of breath to a manageable level. Breathing techniques include:
- Pursed lip breathing
- Diaphragmatic breathing
Receiving and Follow-through with Treatment
Though COPD cannot be cured, there are countless actionable treatment options that can be applied by your doctor to enhance your lifestyle, control symptoms, and reduce exacerbations. Treatment avenues that your doctor may prescribe are:
- Inhaled (Corticosteroids) steroids
- Oral (Corticosteroids) steroids
- Combination inhalers
- Oxygen therapy (portable or home oxygen concentrator, oxygen tanks, liquid oxygen)
- Pulmonary rehab
- For more severe cases, lung transplant and lung volume reduction surgery
You should follow your medication schedule and take prescribed medications as directed. There are numerous ways that you can set yourself up for success to ensure you are taking your medications as intended. There are a few phone apps that you can install and input your medication schedule, and a reminder on your phone will go off when it is time for each medication. A less technical method is to use a pill organizer, which will help you separate your medications by day.
You should also be aware of any new medications being prescribed and speak to your doctor to make sure that they won’t conflict with any current medications or your COPD.
Now that you have knowledge on what it takes to manage your chronic obstructive pulmonary disease like a respiratory therapist, it’s up to you to take the initiative to follow through with treatment and take control of your disease. As you have seen, with proper disease management you can travel, visit the grandkids, shop, and so much more with greater effectiveness and ease.