In November, learn to breathe better

By Helen Marra, R.T.

If you have shortness of breath while performing even simple tasks such as dressing, doing light housework or taking a short walk, you may have COPD. COPD — Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease — is a serious lung disease that, over time, makes it hard to breath.

You may have also heard COPD called by other names such as emphysema or chronic bronchitis.While an estimated 24 million Americans suffer from COPD, as many as half remain undiagnosed. But, with early diagnosis and treatment, people with COPD can improve their quality of life and begin to breathe a little easier.

As part of National COPD Awareness Month in November, if you or someone you care for may be affected by COPD, make an appointment with your family physician or a pulmonologist.

Fortunately, pulmonary rehabilitation can help individuals with COPD manage their condition and improve their quality of life. One-on-one and group rehabilitation by a licensed respiratory therapist follows a plan of care tailored to each patient’s particular needs and goals and includes self-care education, physical reconditioning and maintenance planning.

Upon completion of the program, you’ll enjoy a multitude of benefits that improve your pulmonary health along with your quality of life, including:  stronger breathing capacity  reduced shortness of breath

 improved strength and endurance

 decreased respiratory symptoms and complications

 reduced number of hospitalizations

 better knowledge of COPD and how to manage this condition

 in some cases, decreased dependence on medication/oxygen

 improved functioning

Participants also learn strategies such as how to properly use medication and respiratory equipment, when to see a doctor, the importance of exercise, energy conservation, and relaxation techniques for stress reduction. It’s never too late to improve your respiratory health at any stage, before or after a COPD diagnosis.

Registered Respiratory Therapist Helen Marra is coordinator of Raritan Bay Medical Center’s Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program in Old Bridge. The outpatient program provides patients with personalized treatment plans that include self-care education, physical reconditioning and maintenance planning. If you struggle with COPD, Emphysema, Asthma or another condition that causes shortness of breath, ask your doctor if you could benefit from pulmonary rehabilitation, then call to make an appointment at 732-360-4290.