Shortness of breath affects many Kiwis

KAT PICKFORD
Last updated 16:00 07/11/2012

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Respiratory conditions can have a big impact on the quality of people's lives, but the anxiety and panic caused by being short of breath can be managed, registered nurse Karen Vis says.

November 14 is World Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Day and Mrs Vis wants to spread awareness of the condition and the support available to patients in Marlborough.

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease is shortness of breath caused by respiratory conditions such as emphysema, chronic bronchitis, chronic asthma and bronchiectasis.

More than 200,000 New Zealanders have the condition, which largely affects people over the age of 45 with a history of smoking.

Mrs Vis, who is the Asthma Marlborough respiratory educator, said quitting smoking was the best way to reduce the symptoms, but the correct use of medication and inhalers and light exercise and breathing techniques could help manage the disease.

"The problem is that when people get out of breath, they tend to panic, so they reduce their activity levels to not get out of breath," she said.

"This results in what we call the cycle of inactivity, because the less they do, the less they are able to do and more deconditioned they become."

Asthma Marlborough runs a series of free support and exercise groups and consultations with funding from the primary health organisation.

Don Lowe, of Blenheim, is one of 12 people in the rehabilitation class after struggling with shortness of breath for about four years.

Six weeks into the nine-week class, Mr Lowe has nearly quit smoking after 54 years and feels he is managing his condition with confidence.

"The exercises and lectures have been of great value and has definitely improved my outlook on how and what can be done for the better."

The group meet twice a week for two hours and do a range of stretching, muscle strengthening and breathing exercises and have discussions led by doctors and social services about nutrition, their entitlements and options for managing the condition.

People must be referred by the hospital or their doctor for this group.

However, there is also a free support and exercise class open to everyone on the second and fourth Thursday each month at the Foundry in John St.

Mrs Vis is holding a free respiratory consultation at the Community Care Pharmacy in the Blenheim Warehouse on Wednesday next week between 10am and 2pm, not today as was reported in the Express yesterday.

Asthma Marlborough is also holding a tenpin bowling game at 1pm on Thursday next week, for people with the disease to meet each other.

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The game costs $8. Contact her to reserve a space on 027 406 5367 or 03 579 1609.


THE DISEASE

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease:

One in seven New Zealanders aged 45 and over has COPD – more than 200,000 people, or the population of greater Hamilton 85 percent are smokers or former smokers.

Nearly 3 million people die of COPD each year throughout the world.

People over 40 having difficulty keeping up with people their age with a history of smoking and a persisting cough, should talk to their doctor.

Diagnosis is through a simple spirometry test available at hospitals or some doctors. 

- The Marlborough Express

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