Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is the most common and prevalent respiratory pathology. In Spain, it is estimated that more than 2 million people suffer from COPD, although 70 per cent of them, 7 out of 10 people, are not diagnosed and therefore do not receive treatment.
The main cause of this chronic disease that has no cure is smoking: approximately 80 per cent of COPD patients are or have been smokers. However, this does not mean that non-smokers are exempt from having this disease, although the risk is much lower.
“When a person has COPD, they usually notice the presence of cough, expectoration and phlegm. The problem is that patients do not usually give these symptoms much importance since they tend to attribute them to tobacco and gradually downplay their importance. “You also have to consider other aspects such as the recurrence of colds or, as they usually say, they get a lot of colds, but they don’t get rid of them all winter.”
Sobradillo indicates that as the disease progresses, suffocation or shortness of breath, and Chest tightness may appear, which at first arises when making great efforts when carrying weights or climbing slopes. Still, when it becomes chronic, they arise while at rest.
“Any person, initially a smoker, who begins to notice these symptoms: cough, phlegm, some choking, throat clearing, a cold that does not heal, should see a doctor,” he adds.
Steps to adapt to the new situation
COPD is a tobacco-related disease, it is as important to stop smoking to prevent it from appearing as once it is diagnosed to prevent it from going further.
The expert indicates that there is currently a fairly broad therapeutic arsenal to improve the patient’s quality of life. She insists on quitting smoking, leading an active life, and getting the flu shot.
“I always try to convey a message of optimism: having the disease does not mean your world is ending. You have to adapt to it, and thanks to the advances, you can have a full life”, affirms Sobradillo.
The specialist gives a series of simple guidelines that will allow patients to improve their situation:
The first advice is to eat a balanced diet, avoiding foods that can bloat you and soft drinks, as they can cause a greater sensation of suffocation.
“We usually say that they have five meals throughout the day, not three very copious meals and that they include a lot of fruit and vegetables. So you must forget about legumes and avoid foods that can cause gas, ” he points out. Some products that can increase flatulence, in addition to certain legumes, are cabbage and cucumber.
Regarding liquids, he recommends increasing the consumption of dairy products for the contribution of calcium and doing without caffeine. Other recommendations include being careful with the salt because these patients often have high blood pressure and avoiding fats, prepared foods, or fried foods. As far as meat and fish are concerned, they should be grilled or steamed.
Run? _ The collective classes of the gyms? What sport is better to practice if we have COPD? The specialist indicates that walking is possibly the complete exercise. Another recommended sport is swimming: some patients do very well because it does not include weight bearing.
“We usually recommend that they walk or buy an exercise bike at home, as well as do some weight training because it is important to do arm exercises. But, above all, we insist on the routine, that they include it in their day-to-day, be constant and that every day they take time out to do these exercises, even knowing that at some point they may cause them to choke a little more or Shortness of breath. So in those cases, they have to use their inhaler. Another piece of advice is that they follow a path they know and that it has benches so they can stop if they need it,” he adds.
Changes in daily routines
Drowning is one of the most frequent symptoms, and although at first, it appears only after great efforts, the disease progresses. However, drowning can manifest itself in situations that a priori do not involve great efforts.
The problem is that the patients themselves do not notice these advances since they are the ones who stop performing certain activities. So, for example, if they drown when going up hills, they stop doing it to avoid that effort.
“It is important that they identify what they are not doing and try to adapt it because they should not feel limited and should continue with their hobbies. The important thing is to get to know the disease and always carry the rescue medication, ” she insists.