November is National COPD Awareness Month

November 17, 2017

Chances are high that you know someone with COPD. More than 16 million Americans have been diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and it is estimated that millions more have the disease without realizing it. The sooner people understand and recognize COPD, the earlier they can receive help to improve their quality of life. Start by learning signs and symptoms of COPD, such as shortness of breath, chronic coughing and wheezing. Knowing the signs and symptoms is crucial as they come on slowly and worsen over time, which can delay diagnosis. Often, people mistake their breathing issues as a part of aging or a consequence of being out of shape. Talk to a health care provider if you are experiencing these symptoms.

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Awareness month is the perfect time for individuals to be mindful of their breathing and practice exercises to reduce stress and improve lung function. “Breathing exercises may help improve COPD effects, lower blood pressure, reduce anxiety, improve sleep and lower stress,” says Ellen Alberts, Respiratory Therapist at Rusk County Memorial Hospital.

Breathing exercises to try:

  1. Pursed lip breathing: With relaxed shoulders, take a normal breath for about 2 counts. Then pucker your lips up (like whistling) and exhale for 4 counts. Do this for a few rounds.
  2. Diaphragmatic breathing: Also known as belly or abdominal breathing; you’re training the body to let your diaphragm do all the work. Your goal here is to breathe through your nose and focus on how your belly fills up with air. As you breathe in deeply for about 2 seconds, your belly should stick out a bit. Feel the air expanding your stomach and then breathe out slowly through the lips.
  3. 4-7-8: This deceptively simple breathing technique is known as one of the best ones to help you fall asleep. You exhale through your mouth and then close it and inhale through your nose for 4 counts. You hold the breath in for 7 counts, then release it in 8 counts, and repeat at least three times. The counting slows down your breathing, and in turn, your heart rate which relaxes you and encourages sleep.

For more information on our Respiratory Therapist, Ellen Alberts, click here.