Richard's Top Tips for living with COPD

Richard cowanLet me introduce myself. I am 67 years old and I live in Aberdeenshire. I was a heavy smoker until three years ago when I stopped. In order to help with this, I started to go to the gym and took up swimming as a kind of replacement therapy.

It was while I was swimming that I noticed I was struggling to breathe and I was also experiencing breathing difficulties while bending down to tie up my shoe laces and at rest on the bus.

After a spirometry test I was diagnosed with moderate to severe C.O.P.D. My reaction to the diagnosis was somewhat muted, tinged with concern for the future.

I resigned myself to the fact that this was an inevitable outcome after years of smoking and the damage to my lungs had been self-inflicted.

At the same time, I was surprised by the level of concern and kindness extended to me by medical staff and the help offered. This is the main reason for writing this blog.

I realise that C.O.P.D is a condition that affects people differently and with different degrees of severity. However, although it has a scary title ‘chronic’ it is important to remember it is a ‘condition’ not an illness and it does not define you. These are some of the things that I have found useful along the way.

  1. Sign up for a pulmonary rehabilitation class. An invaluable source of exercise routines that can be done at home, information about your condition and breathing techniques, and an opportunity to share experiences.
  2. Take every opportunity to stay active and exercise regularly. For example, climb stairs rather than use the escalator; get off the bus a stop earlier to walk the extra distance.
  3. Listen to your body and know your limitations. Control the energy you require to do a task. Do your best to avoid chest infections by eating healthily. I have the juice of an orange every day. I do not know if it works but I had no chest infections last year.
  4. Recognise danger signs, for example continued laboured breathing and changes in phlegm colour. Seek medical help, to avert a serious episode.
  5. Enjoy breathing the fresh air and the outdoors. Lucky to live in Scotland!

Richard Cowan