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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 We would love to hear your questions and comments.

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Archive: July 2015

Living with COPD and Preventing Accidents

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Dear COPD Coach,
My mother has COPD and lives alone. I want to do what I can to help her. Do you have any suggestions on how to make her home safer to prevent accidents while I’m away?


Dear Accident-free,
I can certainly understand your concern about your mother living alone. Here are a few ideas that might ease your concerns:

  • Consider purchasing an emergency medical alert system for your Mom. This would include a pendant she could wear to summon help if it would become necessary.
  • Organize her medications, listed by day and time so you and she can track use.
  • If she is on oxygen, keep an emergency cylinder accessible and instruct her on its use. Make sure her oxygen hoses are long enough for her to be able to get to areas of the house she needs to use.
  • Make sure phones are located in convenient locations.

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Tags: accidents preventing
Categories: Coaches Corner

Sleep Apnea and COPD: What You Should Know

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This blog post was written by Xavier Soler, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Pulmonary and Critical Care Division, University of California San Diego

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is very common leading to frequent physician visits and hospitalizations and become the 3rd leading cause of death in the U.S. COPD is the only major disease among the top 10 that continues to increase. Because of the long pre-clinical period, signs and symptoms of COPD develop predominantly in older adults.

Sleep-related disorders are most prevalent in adults and are associated with increased mortality and morbidity from obesity, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and depression, resulting in reduced quality of life (QOL) and increased health care costs. Patients with severe COPD commonly exhibit abnormal sleep like insomnia contributing to chronic fatigue, daytime sleepiness. Additionally, medications used to treat COPD, such albuterol or prednisone may affect sleep quality. A nocturnal reduction of nocturnal oxygen levels commonly seen in patients with COPD can have profound effects and contribute to long-term sequelae, producing arrhythmias, myocardial stress, and, possibly, lower survival.

Sleep apnea (OSA) is a chronic medical condition where the affected person repeatedly stops or nearly stops breathing during sleep. These episodes last 10 seconds or more and cause oxygen levels in the blood to drop leading to important health consequences. Usually it is caused by obstruction of the upper airway, resulting in obstructive sleep apnea. However, it may be caused also by a failure of the brain to initiate a breath, called central sleep apnea. OSA is very common, especially in older adults, occurring in up to 70% of men and 56% of women. Patients with untreated OSA have more automobile accidents and suffer from more family and social discord. Other important risk factors associated with OSA include smoking and alcohol. The symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea include loud snoring and/or abnormal pattern of snoring with pauses and gasps. Other symptoms include excessive daytime sleepiness, memory changes, depression, erectile dysfunction and irritability. OSA occurs in about 10 to 15% of patients with COPD, a condition referred to as the “overlap syndrome”. Although the prevalence of OSA is similar in patients with COPD as in the general population, individuals with both conditions without CPAP treatment have an increased risk of death and more hospitalizations from acute exacerbations.

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Tags: apnea ask comorbidities COPD expert help lifestyle sleep support the
Categories: Tips for Healthy Living

Is Shingles Common with COPD?

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Dear COPD Coach,

I am 57 years old and have COPD. Friends of mine have told me that I should consider getting a “shingles” shot. Is shingles common with COPD?

—A “Rash” Decision

Dear Decision,
You can only get shingles if you have had the chicken pox. The virus that causes chickenpox is called varicella, and it remains dormant in your nerve cells. If at some point later in your life your immune system weakens or becomes compromised, the virus awakens and becomes shingles. As you age, the risk that the virus may awaken becomes greater, and if you have a compromised immune system to begin with, the risk is multiplied. If you have never had the chickenpox, you can not get shingles.

Generally, shingles will first become evident as a muscle ache in one part of your body. Most often, a rash will then appear on one side of the body. The area this occurs is called a dermatome, which is an area on your body where one of the nerves from your spinal cord connects with the skin. The rash will usually affect only one part of your body, but that area could be just about anywhere on your body including your face.

Pain associated with shingles is considerable, and long lasting, however in younger people, pain can be mild or almost non-existent. Generally treatment consists of anti-viral medications, and pain medication if necessary, and the duration of the episode can be quite lengthy. The pain associated with the shingles outbreak usually subsides as the rash heals, but in some cases can last for months or even years. This long-term nerve pain is called postherpetic neuralgia, or PHN. Once you have had the initial outbreak, you can and often will still have repeat episodes, though the duration and severity of these episodes will not be severe.

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Tags: chicken pox shingles vaccine
Categories: Coaches Corner

Live in the Moment

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As a baker, Scott Johnson says his job can cause some difficulty with his COPD; but that doesn’t stop him from doing what he loves. In his words, “Even though I do have the disease I don’t let it bring me down. I just enjoy the day and live in the moment.”

Johnson was diagnosed with COPD in his 40s. He says he had asthma for years.

“Working in the bakery, I have my ups and downs and high humidity is a real struggle for me. Anything that’s really dusty or has a real strong smell sets me off,” Johnson says of his job that goes from 3AM to 11AM. “I’m used to it [the hours] now, and I’ve been in the profession for 32 years.

“I am not on oxygen yet, and I have my good days and bad days. On my bad days I force myself to do things—I’ll take breaks when I run out of breath—but I get things done.”

Living in Minnesota, Johnson says the bitter winters can be difficult, and the summers are humid, which also makes breathing difficult.

“On those days, I just don’t do a lot outside, because if I do, I struggle with it. But I don’t want COPD to rule my life,” he says.

Although now he has to do things at a slower pace, he still does them.

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Tags: baking lifestyle living passion
Categories: Personal Stories

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