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COPD and Veterans: What is the Connection?

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John Linnell

The COPD Foundation would like to celebrate and honor veterans for their service and sacrifices! Veterans are an integral part of our community and 360social network. Did you know that veterans also have a higher risk of being diagnosed with COPD?

Deployed soldiers are often exposed to dust, chemicals, fumes, and sand for long periods of time. Soldiers are also commonly breathing in air pollution and smoke from burn pits used for waste disposal. On top of these hazards, there is a higher prevalence of tobacco use in the military.

Chronic and daily exposure to these conditions can lead to airway irritation, cough, lung damage, shortness of breath, and respiratory tract infections but an NHLBI survey showed that veterans who experience breathing issues are less likely to talk to their doctors about the symptoms.

COPD is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality within Veterans Health Administration. One study revealed that sixty nine percent of deployed military personnel experienced respiratory illnesses and symptoms while in the field. In 2011, respiratory diseases (including COPD) were responsible for over 250,000 medical encounters among active duty U.S. military personnel and COPD was the fourth most common reason for hospitalization among veterans.

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Categories: Advocacy Education, Resources and Studies Health Policy and COPD

COPD and Exercise: How to Get Started

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Caroline Gainer

Caroline Gainer is a COPD patient and State Captain from West Virginia. As an advocate she has participated in research initiatives, advocacy efforts with her local, state, and federal officials, and regularly spreads awareness about COPD through local health fairs. To learn more about the COPD Foundation State Captain program, click here!

What is your connection with COPD? What is your COPD story?

In 2013, I went to my annual physical and was diagnosed with COPD. I had no symptoms at the time, so it came as a surprise to me. In September of 2014, my lung collapsed, and I was hospitalized. After my hospitalization, I was referred to a pulmonologist who formally diagnosed me with severe asthma and emphysema. At that time, I was put on medication to help with my constant coughing, and gaging. I remember having to set my alarm clock an extra 30 minutes earlier to get ready for work because I could not stop coughing and felt that I couldn’t catch my breath. Little activities like getting dressed and walking to the car felt challenging.

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Categories: Personal Stories Tips for Healthy Living

My Journey with COPD & Exercise

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Debbie Daro

Debbie Daro is a COPD patient and State Captain from New Jersey. As an advocate she has participated in research initiatives, advocacy efforts with her local, state, and federal officials, and regularly spreads awareness about COPD through local health fairs. To learn more about the COPD Foundation State Captain program, click here!

What is your connection with COPD? What is your COPD story?

I was diagnosed by my primary care provider with COPD in 2013. I had been feeling sick for several years leading up the diagnosis but like many smokers I kept living in denial until one day I had no choice but to see a doctor. A primary care provider diagnosed me with a chest x-ray but didn’t talk to me about COPD or provide me with any educational materials. I was prescribed a couple of inhalers, told to quit smoking, and the appointment was over.

I continued to smoke for two more years until one day when I was rushed in to see a cardiologist. I knew at that point that I had run out of time and I had to start making lifestyle changes immediately. I quit smoking the day before my first nuclear stress test. A few weeks later I found a tobacco cessation support group. The counselor there expressed concerned that I had yet to see a pulmonologist or have a pulmonary function test. On the second visit she handed me a list of pulmonologists. I had to wait a bit for an appointment but when I finally saw a pulmonologist and had my first pulmonary function test I was diagnosed with early stage 4 COPD.

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Categories: Personal Stories Tips for Healthy Living

Making the Case for Pulmonary Rehabilitation

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Cristin Trecroce

Cristin Trecroce is a healthcare professional and COPD Foundation State Captain from North Carolina. As a COPD advocate, she hopes to spread awareness about the importance of pulmonary rehabilitation for COPD patients. Read her blog posting below, to learn more about pulmonary rehabilitation and its benefits.

Water amazes and scares the daylights out of me. If I think about swimming while in the water, I panic. What if my lungs run out of air while I am swimming? What if I inhale the water and can’t breathe? I can sink, if I sink, I can die. Hello, I can die! What if you had to worry about your breathing all the time, not just when you were in water? Millions of people with COPD have to do this. They have to focus on their breathing as if they were underwater negotiating between the energy needed to breathe and the energy needed to swim or function. About 30 million people in the United States have COPD with half of these 30 million not even realizing they have the disease. The half that is undiagnosed, go throughout their days, compensating for their symptoms without recognizing that their lungs are changing. COPD can cause changes to the lungs that can be subtle at first but then progress to outright lung failure.

Exacerbations of the disease can happen over time or abruptly, when the body’s lung limitations become overwhelmed. Overwhelming stressors can be from illnesses (like a cold or flu) or another health condition. If this happens repeatedly, the lungs get weaker. The weaker the lungs get, then the more likely COPD exacerbations can happen. The process can continue, like a chain reaction, resulting in disability.

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Categories: Education, Resources and Studies Tips for Healthy Living

Hope and Inspiration Through Goal Setting

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Jane Martin

Jane Martin, BA, LRT, CRT is the Assistant Director of Education for the COPD Foundation. She leads the development and creation of the Foundation’s extensive library of patient educational materials and oversees the online catalogue. As a member of the COPD Foundation’s Care Delivery Team, she assists in implementing special projects and shares her years of expertise as a respiratory therapist through writing for both patients and healthcare providers.

November is COPD Awareness month – a great time to remind yourself that it is possible to have control over your breathing – and your life – with COPD! The theme this year is Hope and Inspiration. And what better way to celebrate this than to set one or more goals, things you want to accomplish in spite of COPD.

What matters most to you?

It’s not always easy to set a goal when you have a chronic disease, but that doesn’t mean you can’t try! It’s important that these goals are personal. In other words, they are all about what you want to do to either keep, or improve, your quality of life. For example, it might mean a lot to you to be able to get out to the coffee shop and meet with your friends. For another person, that may have no special meaning at all. Ask yourself, “What matters most to me? What is it that I want to do?” Doing this will help you get started on thinking about your goals.

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Categories: Education, Resources and Studies Tips for Healthy Living

Questions about Medicaid Part D Open Enrollment

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Tracie Sullivan

Tracie Sullivan, Grassroots Advocacy Manager at the COPD Foundation manages the COPD State Advocacy Program, a grassroots initiative that encourages everyone in the COPD community -- patients, caregivers, health care providers, and students -- to come together to lobby on behalf of the 30 million Americans living with the disease.

It is that time of year again, where open enrollment for health insurance coverage is available. Trying to decide what health insurance plan is right for you can be a difficult choice to make. You may be asking how to do I sign up? Do I qualify for specific programs? What should I expect once I enroll? This article will help to break down the open enrollment process for the Medicare Part D program and provide you with tips on finding the right plan for you!

What is Medicare Part D?

Medicare Part D is a prescription drug benefit program, which is an optional United States federal government program to help Medicare beneficiaries pay for self- administered prescription drugs through prescription drug insurance premiums. Simply put, it is a government program that helps consumers pay for their prescriptions.

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Categories: Education, Resources and Studies Health Policy and COPD

Myths about COPD

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Stephanie is a Registered Respiratory Therapist who enjoys educating, informing, and empowering people living with COPD and their families. As the Director of Community Programs, she is engaged with patients, caregivers, and healthcare professionals to improve the understanding and awareness of COPD.

For newly diagnosed patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), it can be a scary and overwhelming time. At the COPD Foundation, we want to provide you with the most up to date and accurate information about your diagnosis. We asked our 360social community to share with us some common myths about COPD they have heard, so we could address these in a blog series.

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Categories: Education, Resources and Studies Tips for Healthy Living

How do I properly use my dry inhaler?

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Dry Inhaler

Dear Coach,

I just finished a pulmonary rehabilitation class and noticed today that my incidence of shortness of breath had decreased. However, I am still having trouble inhaling my new dry powder long acting inhaler. Everyone teaches pursed lip breathing, but what exercises will help with taking deep breaths through my mouth? I feel like I do not get the dry powder into my lungs and it only stays in my mouth.

Powder Puff

Dear Powder Puff,

As COPD progresses it is often difficult to take deep breaths. While it may seem counter-intuitive, COPD is actually a disease that limits your output of air, not taking it in. Until you can successfully empty your lungs, you will not be able to take as much air in; kind of like you can only fill a glass so far. Pursed lip breathing does help empty your lungs and it also helps rid you of excessive CO2 buildup. I also do a modified version of pursed lip breathing where I take a large breath through my mouth and slowly try emptying my lungs as much as possible. At first, I find I can only exhale a small volume but with continued tries I find I am progressively taking deeper breaths. I do this several times a day. This may not work with everyone because it would be dependent on how severe your disease process is; also, because of hyper-inflation of the lungs the breathing muscles aren't nearly as effective as they could be.

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Categories: Coaches Corner

Faces of COPD: Pam DeNardo, Grassroots Advocacy Coordinator at the COPD Foundation

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Pam DeNardo, Grassroots Advocacy Coordinator at the COPD Foundation, collaborates and works on the COPD State Advocacy Program. This grassroots initiative encourages everyone in the COPD Community-patients, caregivers, health care provider, and students- to come together to lobby on behalf of the 30 million Americans living with the disease. Pam talks about her experiences as a COPD patient, and how she came to be involved in advocacy, and The COPD Foundation.

I first learned of my COPD diagnosis in January of 1999 after a rather long bout of pneumonia. Back then, there was limited information on COPD, and I was told I had at least five good years to live. Well 18 years later I am still here. I was lucky in that it was around that time that COPD began to be known and advocacy had just begun. However, I did have to find a great deal of information myself. There was no COPD Foundation, just a few online groups who were great if you knew how to find them.

I was no different than any other newly diagnosed patient and went through all the stages you get when you are diagnosed with a disease that has no cure. In a Pulmonary Rehab class, I met a gentleman who was working on advocacy with the American Lung Association of Chicago. One day, he asked if I would go to Washington DC in his place on behalf of the Lung Association and the Tobacco Free Kids Group and speak on the dangers of smoking. I was in Illinois then and Senator Durbin was holding a subcommittee meeting about lawsuits formulating against the tobacco industry. Senator Durbin wanted someone from his state who also suffered from a disease caused from smoking. My first experience in speaking about COPD was both frightening and enlightening as I knew when that was over I could speak anywhere.

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Categories: Advocacy Personal Stories

With COPD Is There a Limited Number of Hours it is Healthy to Fly?

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Dear Coach

It might be necessary for me to travel from east coast to Hawaii. My question is: with COPD is there a limited number of hours it is healthy to fly?

Thank you,
Looking to fly

Dear Looking to fly

There is no one answer to your question and it really depends on the person. Technically, no number of hours flying are healthy for a COPD patient to fly; some tolerate it better than others. A lot of it depends on how much oxygen you require and what the altitude does to your breathing. Airline cabins are generally pressurized at either 6 or 8 K feet with the larger jets usually being 8K; Jets flying longer distances fly at much higher altitudes. To give you some perspective; Denver is at 5000 feet . In general 20% of patients with COPD require supplemental oxygen but in Denver because of the altitude it is closer to 50%.

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Categories: Coaches Corner

National Immunization Awareness Month

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Do you talk to your doctor every year about receiving your annual flu shot? How about asking your doctor if a pneumococcal pneumonia vaccine is right for you? According to the Centers for Disease Control, an estimated 40,000 to 50,000 adults in the United States die from vaccine preventable infectious diseases every year.

For patients with COPD, asthma, older adults, and those with weakened immune systems, it is especially important to protect themselves with annual vaccinations. For those living with COPD, the risk for contracting pneumococcal pneumonia is 7.7 times higher than their healthy counterparts. Even mild symptoms of the flu or pneumonia in COPD patients can quickly lead to exacerbations, inflammation of airways, and the development of other serious respiratory illnesses.

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Categories: Medications, Treatments and Therapies Tips for Healthy Living

Is COPD the Third or Fourth Leading Cause of Death?

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Have you noticed that in some places COPD is the third leading cause of death and some say it is the fourth? This may leave you wondering, which one is it? Early this year, The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has released its “Mortality in the United States” data report, moving COPD from the third to the fourth leading cause of death based on early findings of death data for 2016. This report showed that preventable and accidental deaths are now the third leading cause of death, having risen 10% percent in 2016. Thus technically, it is correct to say that COPD is now the fourth leading cause of death as of 2016.

What is included in the category of accidental deaths? Deaths due to car accidents, falling, choking, and overdoses. An increase in accidental deaths has largely been because of a dramatic spike in motor vehicle accidents, and drug overdoses. With 37,814 individuals lives claimed from the opioid crisis in 2016 alone.

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Tags: COPD prevalence
Categories: Advocacy

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