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UNDERSTAND YOUR CONDITION Education about what COPD is can be very helpful, says Dawn Lesley Fielding, respiratory therapist, educator and author of The COPD Solution. Sometimes people know their doctors have put them on medication or oxygen, but they don't understand why, she says. "The first thing we always do is talk about the disease itself," she says. "Once they understand what's going on and why they need the medication or oxygen, it relieves a ton of anxiety." So what is happening? The airways in the lungs become inflamed, and less air flows in and out of the lungs, says Albert A. Rizzo, MD, senior medical advisor for the American Lung Association. As the flow of air decreases, there is less oxygen going to the cells in the body and expelling carbon dioxide gets harder and harder. COPD is a broad term, and depending on your particular illness, you may have different symptoms from someone else. STAY ACTIVE "When you have any lung condition that affects your breathing, the tendency is to do fewer things that cause you to be out of breath," Rizzo says. "But getting deconditioned actually makes your breathing worse." Participating in a pulmonary rehabilitation program with a clinical professional can help you learn how to exercise safely, Fielding says. Ultimately, when you're in better physical condition, flare-ups won't be as severe as they otherwise could be, Rizzo says. And if you're able to find ways to continue to do the things you love, you'll have greater quality of life and be less susceptible to depression. QUIT SMOKING Smoking very often causes COPD, and according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the best way to prevent COPD is to not smoke (or to quit STAY HEALTHY THIS FLU SEASON Influenza can be rough on anyone, but if you have a respiratory illness like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), peak season can be especially dangerous. Here are a few things to keep in mind this year. 1. CHECK YOUR VACCINATION RECORDS. Be sure you get the flu vaccine and are up to date on your pneumonia vaccines, says Albert A. Rizzo, MD, senior medical advisor for the American Lung Association. 2. WASH YOUR HANDS REGULARLY. Simple hand-washing is one of the best things you can do to keep germs at bay. 3. AVOID LARGE CROWDS. If you have COPD, it's wise to stay away from large groups of people during flu season. 4. KNOW YOUR NORMAL. Notice when your symptoms change, Rizzo says. "Don't wait a week or two to call your doctor," he says. "The sooner you communicate [any changes] with your doctor, the sooner an intervention can take place." if you already do). Smoking is to blame for upward of 80 percent of COPDrelated deaths. (Other causes include genetics, exposure to irritants, including secondhand smoke and air pollution, and workplace exposure to dust and fumes.) But knowing all of that doesn't diminish the task at hand. "There are ways to quit," Rizzo says. "But it's not easy by any means." Your doctor can provide you with resources for quitting-be sure to ask. Seek out support groups and a quit counselor. And talk to your friends and family, too, says Rizzo: "People need to understand they can't smoke around someone with COPD." MIND YOUR MEDICATIONS Working with a respiratory therapist or a physician, walk through your prescribed medications. Understand which ones are for emergencies and which are for regular use. Most important, learn how to take them correctly. Some inhalers require one quick breath, while others call for a long, slow one, Fielding says. To allow the medication to work properly, you need to follow instructions. CLASS Get Help to Quit Quitting smoking is hard. But you're not alone. The Freshstart program, a FREE, four-class course, can help. Learn more by calling the Gwinnett Medical Center Smokers Quit Line at 678-312-2053. TRY BREATHING EXERCISES Take the time to learn techniques that will help you breathe better in the long run. Knowing how to bring breathing under control when you're out of breath, for example, could prevent a hospital stay. Other exercises are designed to help strengthen your diaphragm-the main muscle involved in breathing. Ultimately, Fielding says, every person with COPD is different. "They have to listen to their body and what their body is telling them they need," she says. n WIN TE R 2016 21

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Vim & Vigor - Winter 2016 - Gwinnett Medical Center

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