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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

Faces of COPD: Barry Wood is Staying in the Game

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Meet Barry Wood, a longtime United States Tennis Association (USTA) NorCal tennis player. In 2006, Barry was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and in 2015 was told he would need supplemental oxygen for any strenuous activity. An avid tennis player, the diagnosis was life-changing. However with an optimistic outlook and a little ingenuity, Barry has been able to manage his COPD and stay in the game.

Faces of COPD: Barry Wood is Staying in the Game. Click to watch the video.

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Tags: Barry Wood COPD portable oxygen tennis
Categories: Personal Stories

Portable Oxygen: What's Right For Me?

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Dear COPD Coach,

portable oxygen for COPD

I have had idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) since 2009. I was an athlete. I did not smoke. I have been told I am de-saturated at night and have a concentrator for night use.

Based on my latest 6 minute walk test, my clinician’s impressions are the following: With treadmill titration, patient required 3L to maintain an oxygen saturation (SpO2) of 91% at a metabolic (MET) level of 4.8. Decrease in walk distance compared to January by over 350 feet. However, still with excellent effort on 6 minute walk test, but severe desaturation to 75% on 3 liters per minute of oxygen. With significant oxygen needs for higher exertion levels. Discussed paced activity, monitoring SpO2 with activity.

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Tags: portable oxygen
Categories: Coaches Corner

Faces of COPD: Justin Daniels is Running for COPD

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Justin Daniels runs for COPD Awareness

Justin Daniels is a seasoned marathon runner who has dedicated his journey to COPD awareness since 2013. He has met and spoken with hundreds of individuals across the United States and around the world to combat the stigma the remains with the disease.

“What started out as doing one marathon in the state of Indiana has now led me to 48 different states and working with great people living with COPD, their families, as well as people that have never heard of COPD. I have continued to make it my mission to be the voice for the people that can’t,” says Justin.

Justin runs and competes in honor of his father and the millions of individuals living with COPD worldwide. “I set up a booth at each event I am running with information that I am able to pass out to anyone wanting to know more about what I am doing. My mom helps pass out the information while I am running my races, but before and after I am at the booth or walking throughout the area asking people if they know someone living with COPD.”

In 2018, Justin is taking the next step in his running career and competing in his first Ironman competition. The race consists of a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike and 26.2 mile run. He will attempt to qualify for the Ironman World Championship in Kona Hawaii in October 2018.

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Tags: Justin Daniels marathon runner
Categories: Personal Stories

What is the Congressional COPD Caucus?

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The COPD Caucus and advocacy

Tracie Sullivan, Grassroots Advocacy Manager at the COPD Foundation, manages the COPD State Advocacy Program. The grassroots initiative 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. Tracie talks about her experiences in community organizing and shares how you can become a COPD State Advocacy Captain.

In my first community organizing position, I would often walk around with a tiny notebook to write down unfamiliar vocabulary words. Words like “appropriations”, “omnibus”, “reauthorization”, and “majority whip leader” left me trying to figure out what on earth people were talking about.

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Tags: Congressional COPD Caucus
Categories: Advocacy

Playing with Fire – Staying Safe Using Home Oxygen Therapy

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Oxygen therapy can be very beneficial to people with COPD, but you have to be careful. Every year in the US there are over 180 home fires involving home oxygen therapy equipment. These fires result in more than 70 deaths and emergency departments treat over 1,000 people for burns. The good news is that you can take steps to minimize the risk. These include above all never smoking while using oxygen therapy and being careful to avoid naked flames or sparks.

Fire prevention with oxygen equipment and firebreaks

Another precaution is fitting firebreaks (also called thermal fuses, fire safety valves or fire stop valves), into the tubing from your oxygen supply. These don’t stop the fire from starting, but they can stop fire from spreading and save your life and other peoples’ lives. In Europe, firebreaks must be fitted to all oxygen installations. In the US, the Veteran’s Health Administration (VA) also takes the issue seriously. It has just made thermal fuses compulsory for all its 85,000 home oxygen users.

Here are a few of the commonly asked questions around oxygen and fire safety:

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Tags: Firebreaks oxygen equipment
Categories: All About Oxygen

Respiratory Therapists, Telehealth and You

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Telehealth policy for respiratory therapists and COPD patientsIf you or a loved one have been admitted to the hospital for COPD, chances are you have been cared for by a respiratory therapist (RT). But if you have COPD and are NOT in a hospital, you likely do not have access to a respiratory therapist. This is wrong, and it needs to change. You can help bring about that change!

Respiratory therapists are an important part of your healthcare team. RTs have specialized training and skills that make them uniquely qualified to help you understand your disease and treatment options. However, the respiratory therapy profession is a much newer profession than doctors, nurses, and physical therapists, and we were not around in the early 1960s when Congress created Medicare. Because of that, RTs were not written into the original Medicare laws, and it has been a struggle ever since to get Medicare to recognize the role of the RT, especially outside the hospital setting.

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Tags: telehealth and COPD
Categories: Advocacy

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