It’s like having the wind knocked out of you – that’s what it feels like learning that you’ve been diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). While the diagnosis might seem scary at first, it’s not a reason to stop doing all of the things you enjoy.
“Having COPD makes it hard to breathe,” says Cassandra Hytjan, exercise physiologist, Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute – Owatonna Hospital. “It’s a common lung disease and smoking is one of the main causes.”
There are two main forms of COPD:
• chronic bronchitis, which involves a long-term cough with mucus
• emphysema, which involves damage to the lungs over time.
Many people with COPD have a combination of these conditions and Hytjan adds, “The more a person smokes, the more likely they could develop it.”
• cough, with or without mucous
• many respiratory infections
• shortness of breath that gets worse with mild activity
• trouble catching your breath
In addition to smoking, other risk factors include:
• exposure to certain gases or fumes in the workplace
• exposure to heavy amounts of secondhand smoke and pollution
• frequent use of a cooking fire without proper ventilation.
“It’s tough, because when people hear that they have COPD, they tend to stop doing all of the things they were doing before they got the diagnosis,” says Hytjan. “The good news is that COPD can be managed; our Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program is a great way to learn different tools to help manage a person’s COPD more effectively.”
This eight-week program that offers both exercise and education classes gives participants tools to learn how to improve their stamina and increase the potential for a more active life. It offers individualized attention—the opportunity to see a respiratory therapist regularly—and is close to home.
“We’ve had great success with patients who’ve enrolled and completed the program,” explains Hytjan. “It’s an opportunity for those living with COPD to learn how to live with and manage their condition.”
A physician referral is required to attend the Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program. For more information, visit allinahealth.org/owatonna, click on “Services” then “Pulmonary rehabilitation program” or call 507-977-2190.