COPD affects around 3 million of us in the UK, but a whopping 900,000 are living with the condition without realising.
It's a condition where the airways become inflamed and the air sacs in your lungs are damaged. This causes your airways to become narrower, which makes it harder to breathe in and out.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for COPD, but there are lots of treatments available to help you manage your condition, improve your symptoms and live an active life. These tips are taken from the British Lung Foundation, where you can find lots more information on the disease.
Breathing control techniques
A lot of the techniques below are taught as part of pulmonary rehabilitation and can be very helpful in reducing breathlessness if you practice them every day. They also help if you get breathlessness suddenly.
Relaxed, slow, deep breathing
In a comfortable, supported position, relax your shoulders, arms and hands. Breathe in gently through your nose and breathe out through your nose and mouth. Try to feel relaxed and calm each time you breathe out.
Breathe out with your lips pursed as if you are whistling. This slows your breathing down and helps to make your breathing more effective.
Blow as you go
Breathe out when you are making a big effort, for example, when stretching your arms above your head, reaching for something on a shelf, bending down, going up steps or standing up.
During the hardest part of any action, blow as you go! If you become breathlessness suddenly when resting, it can help to remember, ‘If in doubt, breathe out’.
This is useful when climbing the stairs or walking. Breathe in, in time with the steps you take.
Do this in a rhythm that suits you and how breathless you are. For example, you should:
- breathe in when on the stair, and breathe out as you go up a stair (blow as you go);
- breathe in for one stair and out for one stair;
- breathe in for one stair and out for two;
- or breathe in for two stairs and out for three.
Other methods of dealing with breathlessness
- Lose weight if you are overweight, or put on weight if you are underweight.
- Arrange the things you use every day to make sure they are easy to reach.
- Use your inhalers correctly and regularly.
- Sit down and take things slowly when you’re not active, to save energy.
- Avoid bending down by wearing slip-on shoes or using long-handled tools in the garden.
- When you’re breathless, take a rest and then start again.
- Ask for help when you need it.
Your doctor might also recommend medications to reduce breathlessness, if appropriate.
To mark World COPD Day the British Lung Foundation is asking people to tweet about the event, using the hashtag #cough
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