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Find inspirational stories, tips from the COPD Coach, events, and current news on the COPD community blog. Have a question regarding COPD that you would like to share with our community? Contact our COPD Coach. Coaches Corner 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.

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Articles for category Tips for Healthy Living

Sarcoidosis: Seek Answers, Inspire Results

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The COPD Foundation is supporting the work of the CHEST Foundation of the American College of Chest Physicians' Seek Answers. Inspire Results campaign to encourage people living with sarcoidosis to take a proactive role in their treatment plan. The disease affects 200,000 Americans and we want our community to be aware of their risk.

Sarcoidosis and lungs Sarcoidosis is an inflammatory disease that can affect almost any organ in the body. It occurs when a person’s immune system overreacts resulting in the formation of granulomas, microscopic clumps of inflammatory cells. When too many of these clumps form in an organ they can interfere with how that organ functions. The cause of sarcoidosis is currently unknown, and a person may experience an array of unrelated symptoms, such as:

  • Fatigue
  • Weight Loss
  • Cough
  • Headache
  • Rash

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Tags: CHEST Foundation Sarcoidosis
Categories: Tips for Healthy Living

Newly Diagnosed with COPD: How Will I Cope?

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As I was browsing the internet, I came across a blog posted on CNN. A woman who was recently diagnosed asked what COPD was, and what could she expect.

Their response:

“Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, is a disease that truly negatively affects quality of life. Patients with COPD are prone to asthma-like wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness and coughing that can occur in episodes caused by chronic inflammation. They're also prone to viral and bacterial infections.

Newly Diagnosed with COPD It is the fourth most common cause of death in the United States, killing an estimated 120,000 people each year. While COPD is most noted for episodes of shortness of breath and wheezing, the disease is typically slowly progressive and persistent. Medical treatment can be successful in relieving symptoms and reducing the severity of exacerbations.

Treatment is with inhaled bronchodilators, steroids to reduce inflammation and other oral medications.”

Despite COPD actually being the THIRD leading cause of death in the U.S., this description is correct. But what's missing from it is describing what it's like emotionally about your COPD diagnosis.

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Tags: COPD COPD diagnosis newly diagnosed with COPD
Categories: Tips for Healthy Living

5 Things You Should Know About Pneumococcal Disease

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Kip Adams, Chief Corporate Relations Officer, COPD Foundation

Patients living with COPD work hard every day at something most of us take for granted—breathing. As fundamental as life itself, the effort it takes for some of our patients to take their next breath can be hard to watch. One of the greatest risks for patients with COPD is contracting a disease that impacts the lungs, such as pneumococcal disease.

5 things you should know about pneumococcal disease Some estimates show that as many of 1/3 of adults aged 18-64 have a chronic medical condition that increases their risk for contracting pneumococcal disease. That is why it is critical that we educate patients about prevention and ways to keep their disease from worsening.

We are working hard to educate our members about the risks of contracting pneumococcal disease—and why and how they must do everything they can to avoid contracting it. The number one way for anyone at risk for the disease to avoid it is to be vaccinated. Older adults living with COPD and other chronic conditions need to talk to their health care provider in order to ensure they are protected.

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Tags: pneumococcal disease vaccinations
Categories: Tips for Healthy Living

The Importance of Indoor Air Quality

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Allergies, illness, and long-term health can be impacted by the quality of the air inside our homes. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the air inside our home can be two to ten times worse than outside air. This is not surprising since for the last forty years consumers have been working to improve energy efficiency in their homes. The rapid rise in the occurrence of allergies and other breathing disorders caused by the increased level of contaminants in indoor air means the problem is real and only getting worse. It can often be difficult for our immune systems to keep up with the abundance of particles, germs and gases that are locked inside our tight, energy-efficient homes.

Is Your Home Making You Sick?

There are many sources of indoor air pollution in a home. These can include combustion sources such as oil, gas, kerosene, or wood, tobacco products, building materials and furnishings, asbestos-containing insulation, wet or damp carpet, cabinetry or furniture made of certain pressed wood products, products for household cleaning and personal care, and outdoor sources such as radon, pesticides, and outdoor air pollution.

 Airborne contaminants, size in Microns So imagine breathing those in. Our bodies act like filters. We will generally catch the larger contaminants, yet the smallest of these – and the ones that are potentially the most injurious to our health, pass into our lungs and often into our bloodstreams.

Particles: Have you ever seen the sun’s rays streaming through a window and you can see all of the dust floating around in the sunbeam? There are millions of microscopic particles that float around in the air all the time. And those in the sunbeam are only the ones that are actually big enough to see. Ninety eight percent of all airborne particles measure below 1 micron (1/25,000 inch) in size and are invisible to the naked eye.

Studies show that breathing particles that measure below three microns in size can be detrimental to our health and 98% of all particles we breathe are less than one micron in size. That's some small stuff that disposable filters are not capable of removing from the air.

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Tags: air quality solutions HVAC indoor air quality
Categories: Tips for Healthy Living

Pneumococcal Disease: What You Should Know

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Adults with COPD disease at greater risk for contracting the potentially deadly disease.

August is National Immunization Awareness Month! Are you current on your shots? Despite recent headlines about the benefits of vaccinations at fighting disease, many adults still aren’t up to date.

National Immunizations Month Pneumococcal Disease For adults living with a chronic disease like COPD, the risks of being under-vaccinated are even greater. As many as one-third of adults living with a chronic illness are at greater risk of contracting the potentially deadly pneumococcal disease. Worse, if a person living with COPD contracts pneumococcal disease, the long term potential for worsening of their disease is elevated.

So what is pneumococcal disease? Pneumococcal disease is an infection caused by the Streptococcus pneumoniae bacterium, also known as pneumococcus. Infection can result in pneumonia, infection of the blood, middle-ear infection, or bacterial meningitis. The bacterium spreads from person-to-person through respiratory droplets. People may become infected if someone with the disease coughs or sneezes in close proximity.

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Tags: CDC National Immunization Awareness Month pneumococcal vaccine
Categories: Tips for Healthy Living

Depression and COPD

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“John Smith” was diagnosed with Alpha-1 27 years ago. At the time, he had two young children, ages three and five.

“I didn’t know how to deal with that [being diagnosed.] People told me I had five years to live, so I guess the depression set in right then, but I didn’t realize it at the time,” Smith says. “I thought that somehow I could lie about it [his condition].”

It is estimated that up to 40 percent of COPD patients also suffer from depression. This number is much higher than patients dealing with other chronic diseases. Depression is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain that causes you to feel sad most of the time.

O2 “Well, the deal with this disease was that I was choking on my breath, and not knowing where I was going to end up. I was suffocating, frankly. So that’s what really brought on the depression,” he says.

COPD can cause changes in your body that predispose you to depression. For instance, COPD can alter the quality of your sleep, which can depress your mood. In some cases, patients feel sad because they can no longer participate in the activities that they enjoy because of breathlessness. Many times, it can also be difficult to be in public because some people feel self conscious about their oxygen or outings may be too tiring. This can lead to social isolation, which can also lead to depression.

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Tags: depression mental health awareness month
Categories: Tips for Healthy Living

Pulmonary Rehabilitation Week

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March 13-19, 2016 marks Pulmonary Rehabilitation Week! Individuals with COPD who participate in pulmonary rehabilitation are actively working to improve their lives through exercise and education to better manage their breathing with COPD.

Pulmonary Rehabilitation Pulmonary rehabilitation (pulmonary rehab) does not increase lung function, not even a little bit. When lungs are damaged, they’re damaged for good. That’s what makes pulmonary rehab such a challenge compared to cardiac rehab, in which case you can repair and strengthen the heart. Pulmonary rehab, however, is crucial to effective management of COPD. A team of specialists work with the patient to improve overall physical ability, health management, and emotional well-being. Individuals who participate in pulmonary rehab report an improved quality of life, ability to exercise, and mood.

Your regimen can consist of exercising, nutrition counseling, and education about your disease. Instead of just dealing with one physician, you may be working with a team of professionals in the different areas that make part of your rehab program, such as doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists, dietitians, and exercise specialists. Education about your disease is an important step in improving your health, and this may be part of your rehab program. You may learn about your symptoms, available treatments, and techniques to manage your symptoms including what to do during an exacerbation.

To join a program, your doctor must refer you to pulmonary rehabilitation and have spirometry test results that indicate you have COPD. Once admitted, your rehabilitation team will take a complete health history, talk with you about your current level of activity, and help you set goals with you. You will walk as they monitor your heart rate, blood pressure and oxygen level. It is OK if you cannot walk very far. Pulmonary rehabilitation professionals are experts at working with people with severe shortness of breath, and they’ll make sure you’re safe.

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Tags: COPD lung function pulmonary rehabilitation week respiratory therapy
Categories: Tips for Healthy Living

Sleeping well with COPD

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It is highly important for individuals with COPD to get adequate sleep, yet it is often a challenge. A well-rested body has more energy to perform everyday tasks and a rested mind can better manage changes in mood.

Have trouble sleeping? Here are a few "Do's and Don'ts" that may help:

Do:

    “Sleep
  • Review your medications with your doctor to see if you are experiencing side effects. You may require an adjustment.
  • Ask your healthcare provider if night-time use of supplemental oxygen is an option for you.
  • Talk to your healthcare provider about non-invasive positive-pressure ventilation (NIPPV) such as CPAP if you suffer from sleep apnea or other sleep disorders.
  • Seek treatment for underlying lung infections that may affect your breathing during sleep.
  • Keep the room you sleep in cozy, quiet, dark and cool.
  • Only use your bed for sleep. Get up and do something else if you don’t fall asleep within 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Practice airway clearance techniques throughout the day and before bedtime to remove the build up of secretions in your airways.

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Tags: apnea COPD CPAP sleep
Categories: Tips for Healthy Living

A Holiday Message from the COPD Coach

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Living with COPD can present some challenges, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t celebrate the holidays in a meaningful and memorable fashion with a little common sense and adequate preparation. Since the thought of celebrating holidays may seem daunting, as our holiday gift to all of our readers, here are some tips to celebrate the holidays and ring in the new year in style.

What are your priorities?
We are often deluged with invitations to parties or events this time of year. It is not always possible to accept each and every invitation or attend each event. This is where we have to accept some limitations. There is no shame in explaining to our family and friends that too much activity in a short period of time can be extremely taxing for us. Decide before hand which events would hold the most meaning for you, and plan to attend only those events

Don’t overdo at the events you attend!
You can still be the life of the party, without expending too much energy. If you feel the need to contribute, make sure it can be done comfortably (preferably sitting down). If attending something like a concert or church service, make sure you can park close and have convenient seating. If hosting an event, rely on your healthy family members and friends to do the “heavy lifting.” Pot luck dinners are never a bad idea and allow your friends to opportunity to feel like they are contributing to the party. Give yourself plenty of time to get ready, travel and arrive at the venue early. Rushing will just cause you to get out of breath more quickly, and anxiety will hurt your breathing! Make sure you are not sitting near an area with fumes, strong scents or stale air – or especially near a fireplace!

Limit your shopping to what’s absolutely necessary.
As a person with COPD, it is never advisable to be out among large groups of people, especially during flu season. Thankfully, we are in the age of the internet where we can do much of our shopping from the comfort and safety of our home! Many of the largest retailers have excellent websites featuring many of the items they carry in their stores that can be easily purchased, usually with free shipping! The sites also offer an easy returns and also gift certificates.

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Tags: Holidays Living with COPD oxygen
Categories: Tips for Healthy Living

Is it a Cold or the Flu?

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Flu season is approaching - could your cough be due to the flu or a cold? Sometimes it is difficult to tell - and since both can exacerbate COPD - it is important to be able to distinguish the differences.

According to WebMD, colds “usually begin abruptly with a sore throat followed by symptoms such as clear, watery nasal drainage; sneezing; fatigue; and sometimes a low-grade fever.”

“A mild cough is a common cold symptom. The cough won’t get much worse, but this common cold symptom is likely to last into the second week of your cold. If you suffer with asthma or other lung problem, a cold may make it worse. If you are coughing up dark mucus — or if you are feeling a lot of distress in the lower parts of your lungs — you may have a bacterial infection. It’s a good idea to touch base with your doctor to find out if you need to be seen. Usually, there is no fever with common cold symptoms. In fact, fever and more severe symptoms may indicate that you have the flu and not a cold.”

With the flu, people might feel very weak and fatigued for up to two or three weeks.

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Tags: cold cough flu illness prevention shot wheezing
Categories: Tips for Healthy Living

COPD and Panic Attacks

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This blog post was written by Ryan Rivera, www.calmclinic.com.

Panic attacks are a type of mental health disorder that can feel overwhelming. Most people associate the word “panic” with fear, but panic attacks are not necessarily a fear-related disorder. Indeed, while they can be triggered by fear, panic attacks may have no trigger at all, and the symptoms are almost entirely physical. They include:

  • Severe shortness of breath.
  • Racing heartbeat.
  • Chest pain and difficulty breathing.
  • Feeling faint, lightheaded, or dizzy.

People that have never experienced panic attacks before often describe the experience as “feeling as though they are dying.” Over-sensitivity to your own physical responses is one of the clear culprits. A little bit of anxiety or nervousness (which is common for those with panic disorders as they worry that they may get a panic attack) causes the person experiencing the panic attack to overact to the heart beat increasing, triggering another panic attack.

Panic attacks are difficult enough for those that have no other physical or mental health problems, leading to agoraphobia and the occasional hospitalization despite nothing being physically wrong. For those with COPD, panic attacks can be much worse, because when you have COPD, a panic attack – which, again, has no physical cause – can be misconstrued as a serious health complication. Worse is that, for safety, it would be dangerous for a doctor to assume that someone living with COPD is having a panic attack, so they may load those with COPD with medicines and treatments they otherwise don’t need, potentially exacerbating your health problems or, at the very least, causing considerable medical expenses.

The most important thing you can do to help with your panic attack management is to learn as much as you can about panic attacks, pay attention to your own panic attack symptoms, and make sure those around you understand that you suffer from panic disorder.

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Tags: anxiety attacks comorbidities COPD panic
Categories: Tips for Healthy Living

Short of Breath After Eating

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Dear COPD Coach,

Why do I feel so short of breath after eating? More than a few times after eating out, I was so short of breath I could barely walk to my car. I love good food, but I am beginning to feel that it isn’t worth the pain of not being able to breathe.

-Breathless

Dear Breathless,

Feeling bloated or out of breath after a large meal is not uncommon with people who have COPD. There are actually a couple reasons why this occurs. When we eat a large meal, we require more energy to digest what we eat and experience more pressure on our chest and diaphragm. The result is we experience shortness of breath.

For many, COPD causes our lungs to become hyper-inflated, which means they take up more room in our chest. This results when air gets trapped in damaged areas of the lungs. When our stomach is filled, it can actually push against the lungs causing us to feel out of breath.

So, what is the answer? It is really quite sensible. Eat several small meals throughout the day. If you are at or below ideal body weight, eat foods that are high in calories. Avoid salt as much as possible since salt can cause you to retain fluid, feel bloated, and increase the workload on your heart. Avoid simple carbohydrates as these cause CO2 build-up in your blood causing less available oxygen. If you do eat foods containing carbohydrates, keep to complex carbohydrates like those found in fruits, vegetables, and whole grain bread.

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Tags: CO2 COPD eating fruit health lungs vegetable with
Categories: Tips for Healthy Living

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