Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
What should you know about COPD?
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is the name given to a group of respiratory conditions. These include chronic bronchitis and emphysema:
- Chronic bronchitis occurs when your bronchi become inflamed. These are the tubes or airways which carry oxygen from the air through the lungs. This inflammation narrows airways and increases mucus production, producing phlegm which makes you cough.
- Emphysema is where the alveoli (air sacs) in the lungs lose their elasticity. This reduces the support of the airways, causing them to narrow. It also means the lungs are not as good at getting oxygen into the body, so you may have to breathe harder. Damage can also happen to the small airways and air sacs in your lungs. This leads to the lungs losing their stretchiness. This loss results in a lack of support for the airways, which can collapse and trap air in the lungs when you breathe out.
The incorrect treatment and management of COPD can result in a visit to A&E. Although COPD is an incurable disease, efficient management of symptoms can slow the progression of the disease and improve quality of life.
What can you do to improve your care?
Although COPD can develop in non-smokers, smoking is one of the major causes of COPD. Tobacco contains thousands of poisonous chemicals which, when breathed in, can remain in the lung and cause damage. The tar in cigarette smoke can be particularly damaging as long term exposure can lead to narrowing and destruction of the airways, and destruction of the lungs' protection and filter system. Quitting smoking is the best way to either prevent the development of COPD, or, if you already suffer from COPD, can prevent its progression.
Much like people with asthma, exercising can be a daunting process if you have COPD. Long periods of time without exercise, however, can cause you to lose muscle, which forces them to use more oxygen and can make symptoms worse. Gradual and regular exercise can improve the condition of your lungs and improve your general wellbeing.
Pulmonary Rehabilitation services are available in Reading, Wokingham and West Berkshire. Pulmonary Rehabilitation will help you to understand your condition, have better control of your breathing and incorporate exercise into your daily life.
Although there is not currently one in Bracknell, Breathe Easy support groups can be found in Windsor and Frimley/Farnborough. They provide a friendly and supportive environment for people suffering from lung diseases and allow you to learn more about your disease and how to manage it.
Maintaining a healthy diet is an important part of caring for your body. Excess weight can add extra pressure on the lungs, forcing them to work harder. On the other hand, being underweight can cause the body to lose muscle and make muscles that help you to breathe weaker. Below are some dietary tips for people with COPD:
- It is vital to maintain a healthy body weight by eating the correct amount of calories. A person with COPD can burn 10 times as many calories breathing as a healthy person does.
- Eat a good source of protein at least twice a day to help maintain strong respiratory muscles. The best sources of protein are milk, eggs, cheese, meat, fish, poultry, nuts, and dried beans or peas.
- Often, people with COPD take steroids. Long-term use of steroids may increase your need for calcium. Consider taking calcium supplements. Look for one that includes vitamin D. Before adding any vitamins to your daily routine, be sure to discuss with your doctor.
- A good intake of water is important to help keep mucus thin for easier removal. A good goal for many people is 4 pints of water a day.
- Avoid foods that cause gas or bloating. They tend to make breathing more difficult.
- Eat 4 to 6 small meals a day. This enables your diaphragm to move freely and lets your lungs fill with air and empty out more easily.
If you are looking to lose and/or manage your weight, Slimming World offers weekly sessions to help you to lose weight and/or remain healthy and active, through group meetings and weekly weighing. A number of these groups have been set up in Bracknell.
If you meet set criteria then you may be eligible for a free referral to Slimming World. Referrals are made via Bracknell Forest GP practices, stop smoking service and children centres. This will enable you to access a free 12-week course to Slimming World if the programme criteria are met. For further information please email Public.Health@bracknell-forest.gov.uk.
Creating ‘COPD friendly’ environments
If you are able to familiarise yourself with certain environmental factors that make COPD worse, then it is encouraged that you are as free from these as possible. The following allergens could trigger your COPD:
- Animal fur- keep pets with fur out of your main living area (eg. bedroom or living room), maintain a clean house in order to reduce the amount of allergens and maintain a regular grooming or bathing pattern.
- Dust mites- keep carpets, bedding, furnishings and toys as clean as possible in order to reduce dust mites. De-humidifers dry out the air, making it difficult for dust mites to survive. They also keep the air fresh and reduce other allergens circulating your home and can help to decrease mould spores, which can affect airways.
- Exposure to pollens or air pollution might make your COPD worse. If so, try to limit time outdoors when the levels of these substances in the outdoor air are high.
Some people with COPD may be less able to fight off infections than others. An annual flu vaccination will help to protect you against flu, which, for people with respiratory diseases is an important part of care. This can be done by a nurse at your local GP surgery.
The Community COPD Respiratory Service (Reading, Wokingham and West Berkshire) is a medical support system for people with COPD by providing specialist respiratory assessment, monitoring and treatment through self care plans and regular check ups. It is also a rapid response service for people who have flare-ups of COPD.
Contact details for local services
Bracknell Forest Stop Smoking Support
Tel: 01344 352518
East Berkshire Ramblers’ Group
Membership and Recruitment Contact: Neil Adamson
Tel: 01753 776627
Bracknell Leisure Centre
Tel: 01344 454203
Pulmonary Rehabilitation Programme:
Tel: 01635 273708
Breathe Easy Windsor
BLF Helpline: 03000 030 555
Breathe Easy Frimley/Farnborough
Mayfield Medical Centre
BLF Helpline: 03000 030 555
Community COPD Respiratory Service
Reading: 01189 605391