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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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Archive: November 2015

Newly Diagnosed with COPD

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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.

  • 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.
  • If you smoke, quit! Avoid second- and even third-hand smoke.
  • Take your medications as prescribed.
  • 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.
  • 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).
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Get educated! Learn to spot the signs of an exacerbation (times when your breathing becomes worse) and contact your doctor before it becomes serious.
  • Use your supplemental oxygen as prescribed.
  • Get involved with a local COPD community support group.

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Tags: breathing changes COPD diagnosed lifestyle newly techniques
Categories: Coaches Corner

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

COPD360social Profile: Orlan W. Holmes

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To say the members of our COPD community are resilient is an understatement. COPD advocate Orlan W. Holmes of Fort Wayne, Indiana exemplifies the fighting spirit that we see in so many who refuse to be defeated by COPD. A single father and sole provider, Orlan raised three children as he worked many jobs to make ends meet. He was the Assistant Manager at Dollar Tree when he became sick with pneumonia and spent 13 days in the hospital. He was diagnosed with severe COPD and cardiomyopathy, and his eldest daughter was told to put his affairs in order - that was 13 years ago.

We followed up with Orlan to learn more about his remarkable story of survival, hard work, and advocacy.

How did your COPD diagnosis change your life?
This was the first time I heard of COPD. I went from working full time to being totally disabled in just under two weeks. The first impact on me was financial. I had to cash in my 401k to survive until I received my first disability check. My breathing was labored and I was soon on oxygen all the time. Hills, walks, and cold weather - perfumes, car exhaust, vacuum cleaner dust, and many other things caused me to lose my breath. I became more and more sickly and was in and out of the hospital many times over the next 10 years.

Orlan Holmes Did you make any changes to the way you lived after the diagnosis?
I went to cardio-pulmonary therapy. This helped a lot and gave me strength to continue. I quit smoking and then qualified for a double lung transplant. I tried to get one at a local center and they told me my only hope was the Cleveland Clinic. Cleveland Clinic accepted me and I spent the next 3 years waiting for a phone call.

While I was waiting I met some wonderful people that were involved with the American Lung Association of Indianapolis. I started attending their Healthy Lung Expo. I also became acquainted with the COPD and the Alpha-1 Foundations. My friends started an Alpha-1 Support group in Fort Wayne and I proposed that we make it a COPD and Alpha-1 Support group. My offer was accepted.

On August 3, 2012, I received a phone call from Cleveland clinic and I received new lungs. All went well until six months out when I had complication. I spent the next two months in the hospital. My complications caused my liver and kidneys to shut down besides giving me congestive heart failure. They eventually changed my medications and things have gone pretty smoothly since then.

What advice do you have for other family members coping with a COPD diagnosis?
For family members and caregivers I would advise you to be patient. Slow down and wait on those of us that can’t breathe. Be positive and supportive if possible at all times. Be patient, we not only move slower, our brain doesn’t process as well as it used to. Sometimes it takes it longer for us to process what we want to say or understand others.

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Tags: COPD patient Profile story
Categories: Personal Stories

World COPD Day is November 18!

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Tomorrow is World COPD Day! Over 300 million individuals live with COPD worldwide and we are joining with COPD advocates everywhere to honor the lives touched by this disease.

Get involved to promote awareness online!

Chat

  • Join U.S. News and World Report, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the COPD Foundation for the #Voices4COPD Twitter chat on November 18 at 2 p.m. EST.
  • Download the COPD Foundation's social media toolkit here and share infographics, messages, and your #MeAndCOPD story with your social networks.
  • Make Twitter #COUGH by joining the awareness Thunderclap. Sign up here.
  • Take the #DareToStair challenge. Show your support and generate awareness by taking the stairs - the more floors the better! After a couple of flights, you'll start to get a sense of what a person with COPD goes through every day. Post pictures using the hashtag #DareToStair on your social pages.

As always don't forget to connect with our social community at COPD360social!

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Tags: awareness COPD Month World COPD Day
Categories: Related COPD News

What is the Difference Between Emphysema and Lung Cancer?

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Dear COPD Coach,
My doctor has told me I have end-stage emphysema. Is that the same as Stage-4 cancer?

Sincerely,
Concerned

Dear Concerned,
COPD, like many other medical conditions, is classified by its severity. There are four stages of COPD. Each stage is measured by what is called your Forced Expiratory Volume (FEV1), which measures the amount of air you exhale. A decrease in the FEV1 may mean there is a blockage to the flow of air out of your lungs. Obstructive pulmonary diseases, such as emphysema, asthma or chronic bronchitis, can cause reduced FEV1 values. This value is often the most important value followed over time in COPD patients.

In the first stage of COPD, often referred to as either “Mild” or “At Risk”, generally indicates that you have 80 percent or more of predicted lung capacity. During this stage, most people will not even realize that they may have a problem, and often will attribute getting out of breath to “just being out of shape” or a normal process of aging. Needless to say, it is rare for a person in stage one to be diagnosed unless they happen to take a spirometry test or screening.

In Stage Two, often called the “Moderate” stage, your FEV1 falls between 50 percent and 79 percent. Your airflow limitations become more severe and you may start coughing or producing sputum. At this stage, most people seek treatment.

In Stage Three, which is often classified as “severe”, your FEV1 falls between 30 percent and 49 percent. During this stage you will notice more fatigue and a decrease in activity tolerance.

In Stage Four, often called “Very Severe” or “End Stage” your FEV1 falls below 29 percent. It is here where there is some misunderstanding. Many people, when first hearing this term, assume that death is imminent. While having very severe COPD is serious with a possible variety of complications, many people in this stage who eat right, exercise, take their medications and generally take very good care of themselves, are still enjoying an active, quality life. Having advanced emphysema should not be viewed as having Stage Four lung cancer.

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Tags: cancer emphysema health lung stages
Categories: Coaches Corner

Honoring our Veterans

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We are deeply grateful to those who have sacrificed for our country to protect and uphold American ideals and freedom. We honor all military veterans today and extend a heartfelt “Thank You” for their service.

Did you know veterans face a higher risk of developing COPD?

You might be surprised to learn that:

  • Veterans are 3x more likely to develop COPD than the civilian population
  • COPD is the fourth most prevalent disease in the veteran population
  • COPD affects approximately 15% of Department of Veterans Affairs healthcare users

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Tags: at-risk Honor MeAndCOPD Veterans
Categories: Personal Stories

Costs of Supplemental Oxygen

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Dear COPD Coach,
My husband has COPD and uses supplemental oxygen 24 hours a day. We also use an air cleaner in the room he spends the most time in. I have noticed that our electric bill has been much higher since he started using oxygen. Since we are on a fixed income, is there anything we can do to help with the cost?

—Costs and COPD

Dear Costs,
While today’s concentrators and air cleaners are more efficient than they once were, the cost of running them still adds up, and can be difficult for people on a fixed income. With regard to the concentrator, there is little you can do to cut the costs of operating the unit. However, there are a couple of options available to you. There are air cleaners on the market that can be adjusted to reflect the size of the room, which means you can “dial the unit back” if the room is smaller. There are also units available that either have timers or can be set to an automatic mode to speed up when movement in the room occurs.

As far as the cost of running the concentrator, you might be able to deduct the electricity cost as a medical expense on your taxes.

However, it is important to note that you can do this only if you itemize. In any case, you need to talk with a tax professional to determine your status. If the air cleaner is prescribed by your doctor, it is possible to deduct this cost also.

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Tags: concentrators COPD costs MeAndCOPD support
Categories: Coaches Corner

Air Quality from a User’s Standpoint

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This is a guest blog post from Jim Nelson, an individual living with COPD.

Prior to the major miracle of a lung transplant, I had emphysema and chronic bronchitis, also known as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD. That means that my lung capacity was only a fraction of what it should have been, given my age, weight, etc. The measure of lung function is a major factor in the diagnosis of COPD. I should have been able to expel about three liters of air in a second. My tests revealed that I was only blowing out about 6/10 of liter, or 21% of normal.

“Jim It also meant that my respiratory system was super-sensitive to air pollution in any form. That included things such as particulate matter–dust, carbon monoxide, and ground level ozone. Ozone at ground level can be a very bad thing, especially for those of us who have enough trouble breathing without any outside interference! Sunlight and hot weather combine with auto exhaust, gasoline vapors, industrial emissions, and chemical solvents to form harmful levels of ozone.

Many urban areas tend to have high levels of “bad” ozone, but even rural areas are subject to increased ozone levels because wind carries ozone and the pollutants that form it hundreds of miles away from their original sources. As our population ages and the effects of tobacco use damage more and more lungs, it will become even more important to concentrate on improving the quality of our air.

Despite our best efforts, bad air will tend to find us. We owe it to ourselves to shy away from smokers, to stay indoors on bad air days, to wear a surgical mask if we are exposed to pollutants. Roll up the car windows and use the air conditioner if the outside air is loaded with dust or smog. If you are exposed to dust or pollen or the like, a shower before bed is a good idea.

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Tags: air quality MeAndCOPD patient stories
Categories: Personal Stories

Questions about Inhalers

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Dear COPD Coach,
I have a question on taking medications. I use a powdered inhaler twice a day and use a rescue inhaler throughout the day. My hardest time breathing is in the morning, but I am afraid that I am not able to breathe deeply enough to make the powdered inhaler effective when I first wake up. I also have to bring up a lot of mucus in the morning, and I am afraid that all the medications are doing is coating the mucus. Do you have any suggestions?

—Perplexed

Dear Perplexed,
The one thing that is true about COPD is that it is not the same for all patients. Many COPD patients experience problems breathing in the morning, while others tend to have worsening symptoms later in the day. If you have a bronchitis component to your COPD, you might well be experiencing mucous plugs in the morning that restrict your breathing.

If this is the case, you should discuss this with your doctor. I also experience mucous plugs after awakening, and it seems at this time when I need the medications most, Mucus plugs are when the mucus you produce gathers in one area blocking your airway. You are also correct in assuming that the mucus you are experiencing might well be restricting the medicines. When you are out of breath to begin with, it is hard to generate enough strength to inhale the powdered inhaled deep enough to be effective.

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Tags: help powdered inhalers questions support
Categories: Coaches Corner

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