For COPD, Bronchiectasis Asthma or Respiratory sufferers


January 2017

Air pollution is affecting everyone, not just sufferers

You will have seen the recent coverage and London making headlines for its toxic air and breaching its annual air pollution in just five days. Even more so, it triggered further action by London’s mayor Sadiq Khan to issue their first ever ‘very high’ air pollution alert to the public. It was claimed it exceeded levels in Beijing. It is so severe in fact, air pollution is linked to 40,000 deaths in the UK. 

And everyone, from the most vulnerable to physically fit is affected. To stress its damaging and sometimes irreversible effects is critical and speaking from experience, I went from being hospitalised 11 times over 1.5 years in London to 1 time in Scotland. If you live in a polluted city, of course it is not always possible to relocate or have the opportunity that I had, but there is advice out there that you can follow to minimise the effects. I have no doubt that the Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2)and particulate matter largely contributed to my deterioration. It was after the damage had been done, that I had wished I was more educated on the topic or paid more attention. So I think it is very important to spread the word to your loved ones, especially those living in cities. Not to scare them, but to help them become aware and take measures to minimise the damage.

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Leonard Nimoy and his battle with COPD

Next month marks the 2-year death anniversary of Leonard Nimoy (Spock in Star Wars)!

Some people may know his death was ultimately caused by COPD and Nimoy himself, despite having quit smoking 30 years before, he tweeted ‘not soon enough’. To his credit, in his final months before passing, he took precious time from his last days among us to issue a warning through traditional and social media. With smoking being the major cause of COPD, Nimoy wanted us to take more care in our younger years before the eventual realisation that we’re mortal, and that we need to take care of our health.

He took this often undiagnosed disease amongst many, to light, as much as he could.

The trouble with degenerative lung disease is that it’s impossible to know at what point enough damage has been done to the lungs that they will continue to degenerate, eventually resulting in a COPD diagnosis. It’s known as a ‘silent disease’.

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The misconceptions of COPD

As an opportunity to provide not only tangible and practical advice, I decided that this blog would also be dedicated to mental health, reassurances and spreading knowledge or awareness.

Added to that is the therapeutic effect of being able to write about all of this and really illuminate the path for myself and others, find our way, express and get it all out! It also means others going through a similar thing can either do a nodding of the head and feel understood or to become better educated so we can all deal with it together. It may also teach others to understand better, remove the stigma and judgements that go with it.

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Massage therapies

Massages are no longer available solely in luxury spas and are now used in clinics, sports institutions, beauty salons, workplaces, shopping malls and in holistic therapy clinics!

They can range from the regular £10 back massage in a salon or the full works in a kitted out spa store.

We’re all aware of the general benefits of a massage, which include stress relief; reduced anxiety;managing low-back pain; sleep better; relieve tension headaches; eliminate toxins; ease symptoms of depression; promote relaxation; lower blood pressure; reduce muscle tension; enhance exercise performance and many more.

But what specifically can massages do for COPD sufferers?

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Diet and weight management for COPD

As stated in my bio, I’m in no way a replacement for doctor’s advice or the go-to person for nutritional and dietary help.

BUT, one thing I do have is the experience of how COPD affects weight and eating habits. I’m also lucky enough to acquire the wisdom from my Chinese father, qualified dietician cousin and generally have in interest in health and fitness anyway.

My cousin kindly referred me to an article in her medical journals at work which exposed the prevalence of malnutrition amongst COPD groups. Written by Jo Banner, a senior respiratory dietician, she spoke about integrating nutrition into the care pathway of COPD patients and stated:

‘ There is no reason why a nutritional review cannot form part of routine review of a patient with COPD and this should not be seen as an extra, isolated piece of care’ 

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How to deal with COPD anxiety…

Sitting in a work meeting. Crackling away. At least I can hear my own crackling inside my throat, from bubbles of Co2 and used oxygen trying to escape my damaged airways, but it can’t. I’m worried now. And embarrassed. This was a regular occurrence as I tried to abstain from coughing so not to be a pain in the ass or interrupt people, or god forbid, spread germs.

COPD makes it difficult for sufferers to get rid of C02, it makes us breathless, it makes us tired, it makes us frazzled. It makes us cough, wheeze, splutter and emit, sometimes in the most uncontrollable ways you can imagine. Then you start to worry about what others think.

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What drinks to avoid…

Ok. So there are probably  a million blog posts about fluids, teas and the like. And I know.What an odd title. Bare with me…

There’s the obvious ones to avoid- sugary, fizzy drinks and alcohol. But there’s hidden ones too.

I was taught a couple of things from my Chinese father, and this of course is linked to the dichotomy of Yin and Yang or Chinese philosophy.

a) Don’t drink cold or freezing water (even during sports or when you’re trying to ‘cool’ down). Regular temperature or warm water is better for you. It’s like the equivalent of putting ice against your skin, but in this case against your organs, inside your body! And you have a certain core body temperature that needs ingested matter to be of a similar temperature, otherwise it has to work too hard to digest it…

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Useful forums and communities for COPD sufferers

In order for me to truly understand COPD, of course I trawled the sites, both out of panic (and as a learned lesson, please don’t do that…) and to better educate myself.

Being in the UK, one of the first, very helpful sites I came across was the British Lung Foundation, the only UK charity looking after the nation’s lungs.

They give you information about the condition, video’s, guides and even a helpline open from Monday to Friday 9am to 5-m. And a web community where you can speak to other people like you! And even stories or other blog posts like this  which can make you laugh, get the empathy and feel that there really is a community!

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Get help from Public Services

Certainly if you’re in the UK, we have a great welfare system that people take for granted.

I am guilty and always just thought the UK government was too lenient in terms of handing out benefits to lazy people (or those benefit ‘scrounging’ 16 year old pregnant mums with 10 kids in a 8 bedroomed house). Perhaps narrow-minded but that’s how it was. My left-wing supporter best friend always tried to tell me differently. As a case worker, she was always the more compassionate one with a wider view on just how many different types of people they cater to and within good reason.  She paid a great deal of service to the public and it is kind people like her that can make the world a better place. People like her, are the reason we have a pretty good public welfare system and an unselfish society to an extent.

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