Breathe easier. Keep active.

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I hate the approach of winter as the season makes it harder to breathe, and can make mobility harder. Do you? Today’s blog is written to offer some advice I have learned that hopefully will make your life that little better.

The first thing to realise is just like hot days is bad for us, so is cold. Cold constricts your respiratory system making for more laboured breathing. Cold will leave you more open to infection, and worse still, pneumonia. If possible both for your safety and comfort keep your home above about 68F (20c) by day. I often say I don’t do cold. The reason is I know the importance of keeping warm to protect myself. My home is a constant 70F (21c) or a little above by day. With the heat turned down to about 66F (18c) at night.

We have to move our bodies. Even if restricted by outside weather. But before you do any exercise indoors or out you will find you will breathe easier, and your task is more enjoyable, if you take a couple of puffs of your rescue inhaler a few minutes before you are going to do any exercise. Keep your pump with you at all times. And learn the rule for an easier better life.

Another big mistake I made until told the correct way by my respiratory nurse is in the use of oxygen. I use o2 for mobility. I used to rise from my seat at rest, put my cannula on and move. Wrong move. For an easier life put your cannula on with your oxygen flow a couple of minutes before rising to oxygenate your blood first. You will be amazed how much easier this makes life if like me you only use oxygen for mobility.

Another problem we have is breathing becomes harder in winter. Sometimes we feel like our lungs are heavy and we are sucking in lead air. I am sure if you are stage 3 and 4 for sure you know what I mean. There is a reason , and to an extent a cure.

Before I became disabled by emphysema I used to do a lot of walking up mountains, and across very high ground. As proved by a portable barometer I once took with me as you climb, air pressure becomes lower. And lower air pressure means less oxygen. This is plain sometimes when I climb one of my local mountains on a super scooter (cart) that lets me ride rough ground. I don’t need oxygen seated. But quickly found much above 1700 foot I do, seated or not. Less pressure equals less oxygen.

During winter we often get deep depressions with very low air pressure. This air then has lower oxygen content, but with less pressure is harder to get o2 into your bloodstream. This is the reason you may find your breathing harder and sometimes if on oxygen you need more during winter. When there is a storm about be aware.

During winter humidity is higher outdoors. Humidity above 70% is classed as wet air and can be damaging both to your home and health. When you rise in the morning the wet on the inside of your windows is excess moisture inside the home condensed on the cooler window pain.

Hospitals in the UK have low humidity inside their walls for good reason. High humidity causes mould to grow, airborne germs and bacteria to thrive, and dust mites too. Lower the humidity is death to all these as they struggle in humidity below 60%.

Mould is dangerous to us as the spores in damp air can get in our lungs and make us ill. Opening the window will not help a lot as although the humidity in your home maybe 78% – outside it might well be 94%. But will in winter in just about all cases be higher than in the home. Is it any wonder that cold, low pressure, and humidity makes our life so much harder, and more miserable.

You can lower humidity by using a dehumidifier. I have used one for many years now and it makes an amazing difference to my home and comfort. And am often equally amazed by just how much water is sucked out the air. If you can afford to I would recommend you buy a de-humidifier. My home would have a much higher humidity that would make my lungs feel like lead without. I run my machine for an hour in the morning and two in the evening during the cold months, although how much you would need to use yours depends on many factors including build and weather. My home in winter is kept to a comfortable 60% humidity.Remember. Winter is our enemy. But there are ways to fight it.

I hope this short blog has given you a better understanding of how winter weather hurts us. And ways to combat that. If this blog helps just one person I consider it worth writing.
Whatever you are doing. Remember to be positive. Smile and watch that happiness returned. But most of all. Till my next blog, Breathe easy. ;)

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Interesting scientific results with lots learned.

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I was a little surprised to notice my last blog was written in August. Illness has not stopped me. The only reason being enjoying good weather and photography. I would be less than honest if I were to say that things were no harder than they were a year ago. COPD is progressive, and I do get a little more breathless than I used to. I do have to move slower at times. But as I often say. It is essential we keep moving.

A part of winter I really dislike is the coldest two or three months. The months when in the past I have often been housebound. Too cold,wet,windy, high humidity with lots of dampness in abundance during winter kicks me like a mule, leaving the only answer to stay home in the warm and dry. For that reason, I have ramped up my volunteer work. For some time I have worked with the British Lung Foundation, Wales. But have now extended into our local health board, and scientific studies paid for by the Welsh Government. The advantage is I get to go to meetings in a warm building. While meeting interesting people helping to ‘make a difference’ in our lives. I enjoy doing this as it give me a sense of purpose. Motivation to ‘move my body’. And I can see the results of the work I do.

This last week at a meeting we were told, I was part of a group of people, all with copd, have made medical history in Wales. The meeting was to show the results of scientific test I and others had agreed to be subjected to.

The tests was to check the difference in Arterial stiffness and Cardiovascular risk between copd patients, and those with good lung health. The non invasive procedures were amazing as was the equipment used. The most up to date in the word to test blood pressure in the heart. How long it takes for blood to move from one point to another. Bone density. Lung function. The heart. Aorta and arterial stiffness The tests were many. But non strenuous or taxing.

I learned the body is not made to last over 100 years. Better forget that immortality bit. Given enough time your arteries calcify into something almost as hard as bone. Blood pressure rises with age because of the hardening of the arteries and the aorta. I learned that most people over the age of 50 years have blood pressure higher than younger because of stiffening arteries and many will be classed as hypertensive at that stage. To top that your aorta and heart would wear out eventually anyway. The message is. Sorry but we are all dying. Who wants to live forever anyway. :)

A subject not often talked about is dying. In western society it seems to be something hidden away, as though it never happens. Death has never worried me. I cannot stop it. I am going to die. Although I would like to delay it by a few years. What most want is to live a long life. But not get so old we are infirm. Am I right?

COPD is an inflammatory disease. That is why you are given steroids sometimes. To get rid of some of that bad inflammation during an exacerbation. Some of the problem is that during a flare up the Aorta and arteries also become inflamed. And when that happens the part that was inflamed in the Aorta or arteries will calcify more. It is a slow process but is happening. As you get older your bones soften but your arteries harden. All pretty amazing stuff.

A treatment to help stop some of the extra calcifying us with copd have will be available hopefully soon. The good news is the drugs are already available as the same ones are prescribed for other illnesses. A raised heart beat, which most of us if left untreated with copd will have, when lowered, lessens the calcifying process. Watch this space. I will know when it becomes available generally for us copd patients.

Interestingly tests were taken on those with arterial hardening before and after pulmonary rehabilitation. And it was found that aortic and arterial stiffness improved with regular exercise, and blood pressure lowered at the same time. Proof that if you don’t get any exercise you are more at risk than someone that does. These results mean I will be moving my body more and be ready to huff and to puff more. Getting out of breath is not dangerous as long as your oxygen saturation is ok. If you have an oximeter keep a check to make sure you have a saturation of 90% or above at least. The end game will be we will live longer while having better tolerance to exercise. One piece of bad news is if you smoke your arteries calcify faster. Making smoking and copd end game stuff. Bet you are saying thank god I quit.

I will try to write another at least once a month. Many thanks for the many emails received from you guys over the last few months. I always appreciate them. Take care. Keep that smile. And don’t forget. Exercise is good. As is laughing. Till my next blog. Breathe easy.

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An active life despite having copd and using oxygen thanks to the NHS.

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Today it was brought to my attention that I have used oxygen for mobility for over two years. The years seem to pass so fast as we get older. Almost like being on a magic roundabout that speeds up for every year we live. The truth is though without our British National Health Service. For all it’s faults. I would most likely be dead.

The NHS has provided drugs to enable me to lead as normal a life as possible. And oxygen to allow me to go about my normal business. Without which quite simply I would not lead any kind of life. It is because of the NHS that I can attend meeting on our health board, help the British Lung Foundation with publicity. To do a multitude of tasks I would otherwise not be able to do. At present I am also looking forward to getting involved in research from a patients point of view as part of NHS studies. Quite simply I don’t want to do nothing with my life. I want to as long as possible put back into the system.

By doing volunteer work and being involved in board meetings and other activities I keep my brain active, myself to a degree active also even though I use red most times. When I started to use oxygen I was surprised by the response of most people. I found I was accepted with a cannula by most almost without question. As if wearing one is a normal part of life. It is for me of course but it appeared most did not even notice the cannula. If asked I explain I have emphysema. And that I have low altitude sickness. If asked by children I point to the cannula and explain it is my mustache. Both always raise a smile.

I would be excused for assuming that as far as a professional life that had passed due to being ‘on oxygen’. And this is where I was even more pleased and amazed. I have been invited to meet celebrities, interviewed on television and radio. Am on a health board, been accepted to join research, help run a breathe easy group along with other activities. All while wearing a cannula. The fact that I use oxygen for mobility. And sometimes even ride into a boardroom on red, does not in any way affect what I do. Isn’t that wonderful. I lead a full life. With oxygen for mobility. And it does not effect me professionally or otherwise. It could be said I consider myself to be an ambassador for those of us that use 02. Showing that to wear a cannula is acceptable and people in all walks of life will treat you with respect using oxygen or not.

But back to the purpose of today’s blog. Without the NHS not a bit of what I do would be possible. I simply would be dead, or too ill to do anything but sit in my home. And possibly lie in my bed. This Tory government here in the UK is trying to kill the NHS by the backdoor. You only have to ask concerned staff on the front-line who have seen what is happening. Do not let this happen. You must make sure everyone that is concerned is aware of what the future may hold should we lose this essential service to life and death in our country. I am not normally this political. But in the case of the NHS feel I have to make a stand. Support your NHS. Protest against cuts. And show any government, of any persuasion, the door should they want to damage our NHS service.

Some have noticed I have not blogged so much this last year. Please be assured it is not because of illness but because my days have been so very filled with the work I do, while in between I have been out during the summer months enjoying my other passion. Photography. I have also put a page together to show some of my photography. This is still in the making although if you would like to view it please visit my site by clicking this link.

Till my next blog remember there is always someone worse off than you and that a smile is contagious. Give a stranger a smile today and watch how many you get back in return. And most of all. Breathe Easy :)

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