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Dr Miriam Stoppard, provides advice on living with COPD

Dr Miriam Stoppard, provides advice on living with COPD

Adjustamatic’s Health & Mobility Advisor, Dr Miriam Stoppard, provides advice on living with COPD, a respiratory condition which is suffered by millions, but relatively little known.

“COPD, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, is the most common respiratory disease in the UK. Approximately 1.2 million people are living with this, a chronic, progressive condition which, if not properly managed, can be disabling.

In COPD the airways become inflamed and the tiny air sacs in the lungs are damaged. As a result gaseous exchange is impaired and the airways become narrower, causing airflow obstruction and making it difficult to breathe in and out.  This can be debilitating and can eventually hinder many aspects of everyday life such as walking short distances, climbing stairs, sleeping, even talking.

Smoking is the main cause of COPD. It usually affects people over the age of 40 who are, or have been, heavy smokers. In most cases a diagnosis of COPD isn’t made until a person is in their 50s.

That said, COPD can also affect non-smokers, including people who have been exposed to fumes and dust from the environment or work place (e.g. old mining communities), people who have severe asthma and those who’ve suffered long-term exposure to air pollution.

People with COPD may suffer persistent cough with phlegm that never seems to go away, frequent chest infections especially in the colder months, increasing shortness of breath when moving around, wheezing and a tight feeling in the chest.

If you experience any of these symptoms for an extended period, talk to your GP.  Doctors confirm COPD with spirometry tests, measuring the size of your lungs and the amount of air flowing in and out.  Getting checked out is especially important if you’re a smoker. It’s thought that 2 million people in the UK have COPD but have not yet been diagnosed. Many of these people are likely to have ignored warning signs in the belief they have ‘smoker’s cough.’ Once the damage has been done to your lungs, however, it can’t be reversed. So it’s vital to see your doctor as soon as possible in order to diagnose COPD and receive treatment for it.

Good management of COPD requires lifestyle changes.  If you’re a smoker, the most immediate and effective course of action is to stop smoking. Your doctor and pharmacist can advise on ways to make quitting easier. Remember you’re four times more likely to quit with help from support services and medication.

For smokers and non-smokers alike, it helps to stay active and exercise often, fitting your exercise routine to the limitations of your breathing. Your doctor may be able to refer you for Pulmonary Rehabilitation sessions to identify a suitable exercise programme and to learn breathing techniques that help you relax, reduce shortness of breath and prevent air getting trapped in your lungs.  Maintaining a healthy, balanced diet is essential as is keeping to a normal weight.

Ask your doctor for more information and advice on incorporating Oxygen Therapy into your treatment plan. Oxygen Therapy enables you be more active and exercise longer and harder. It can also help you to think more clearly, improve your memory and the quality of your sleep.

You might like to consider Cyclo-Therapy as part of your management plan, so talk to your doctor about it.  Cyclo-Therapy, which can be done in the comfort of your own home, uses a three-dimensional vibration system called cycloid vibration that can help you to rest and relax. A clinical study has shown that vibrating the chest can help with difficulty breathing (1) and in animal studies to help clear mucus from the airways (2).  If you’d like to know more about Cyclo-Therapy, I’ve written about it in more detail here. Adjustamatic’s range of adjustable beds and chairs have built-in Cyclo-Therapy technology which can help muscle relaxation and ease chest tension and anxiety.

Shortness of breath related to COPD can be worsened by certain sitting and lying postures.  Using an adjustable bed to vary your position could help relieve breathing difficulties. For example, elevation of the head of the bed to 45 degrees allows the diaphragm to work more efficiently thereby helping inhalation and exhalation. Clinical studies show that the head elevated posture in bed improves breathing for COPD patients (3). The Cyclo-Therapy massage system incorporated into Adjustamatic beds and chairs, combined with their positional adjustments, can help to relieve troublesome symptoms of COPD.

For further information about the health benefits of an adjustable bed, please visit /dr-miriam-stoppard

 (1) Chest Wall Vibration helps decrease breathlessness in Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. Medical Reference: Hideaki Nakayama et al. Internal Medicine Vol. 37, No. 10 (October 1998)

(2)We conclude that moderate oscillatory power applied to the chest wall can enhance mucus clearance in central airways, Medical Ref- Rubin EM,et al Effect of chest wall oscillation on mucus clearance: comparison of two vibrators. Pediatr Pulmonol. 1989;6(2):122-6.

(3) Trouble sleeping: Medical Ref: Tomomi Ichiba, Tetsuo Miyagawa, et al. Efficacy of relaxation posture in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). European Respiratory Journal September 1, 2011 vol. 38 no. Suppl 55 p3641.