From Diagnosis to Ironman: Living Well with COPD

Posted on November 14, 2017   |   

By Russell Winwood, COPD patient and marathoner

It can be confusing and scary when you first find out you have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which is the fourth leading cause of death worldwide and is estimated to be the third leading cause by 2020. Even more surprising – and scary – only about half of the estimated 210 million people with the disease have been officially diagnosed. Common symptoms of COPD are shortness of breath, wheezing or a chronic cough, as well as chest tightness. Unfortunately, some people avoid getting diagnosed due to lack of awareness and social stigma and most people wait too long for diagnosis, with the majority of people not being diagnosed until they have already lost half of their lung function. COPD is among the most common, underdiagnosed, debilitating, deadly and costly diseases to manage, and for those who have recently been diagnosed, it can be difficult to figure out how to manage this life change.

Russell Winwood lives with COPD in Australia Philips Respironics Often recently diagnosed patients and their families can be taken by surprise – they might not know what COPD is, what it means for their future or how the diagnosis will impact their ability to stay active. Before my diagnosis, I wasn’t familiar with COPD and I had a hard time coming to terms with what it meant for my future; however, with the support of my family, I was able to achieve my goal of completing my first Ironman just six months after my diagnosis. I always encourage people in similar shoes to define their own Ironman - whether it’s joining a local gym or even walking the dog every day, set an activity goal and work toward it.

For recently diagnosed patients, I won’t lie: my transformation from recently diagnosed COPD patient to getting back into my active lifestyle didn’t happen overnight – but if there’s one takeaway I want to share with those dealing with a new diagnosis it is that COPD doesn’t need to stop you in your tracks. I hope that in sharing my personal journey and through my work with Philips, I can encourage other COPD patients to live an active lifestyle and to continue to enjoy their favorite activities.

These are my guide posts for living well with COPD: Russell Winwood lives with COPD in Australia


  • Knowledge: Understand what it means to have COPD. Patients should work with their doctor to create a customized action plan to help track progress.
  • Treatment: While there is no cure for COPD, there are many treatment options including prescription drugs, positive airway pressure (PAP) therapy, portable oxygen concentrators, and ventilation therapy that can help patients maintain a better quality of life. By researching and having a strong understanding of the treatment options available, patients can have a more educated conversation with physicians about care plans.
  • Nutrition: A healthy diet is incredibly important for COPD patients as a poor diet can make symptoms worse. The right nutrition can even help patients breathe easier. Meet with a nutritionist to gain an understanding of where your current diet stands to help with your diagnosis.
  • Exercise: Exercise can help improve cardio-respiratory fitness level by strengthening large muscle groups within one’s body while also improving circulation. Find an exercise that works for you and encourage friends and family to participate with you!


If you suspect you or a loved one may have COPD, your physician is the first person to turn to for a proper diagnosis and to determine next steps. But support doesn’t stop there. Help the COPD Foundation to further globalize the COPD360social community, where those affected by COPD can come together to learn more about the disease and how to cope and keep on living. Help us spread the message of encouragement and hope. Join today!


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