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  • Writer's pictureChristina Hunt

Your Top 5 Breathing and Lung Questions Answered

Your top 5 breathing and lung questions

Hello Everyone! Thanks for reading my blog! If this is your first time visiting I invite you to “read up” on all the helpful blogs that I have written in the past. I am a respiratory therapist working hard each week to provide helpful and useful content that people with chronic lung conditions can use each day to help them live happier healthier lives. And if you like what you are reading, please subscribe (it’s free) and stay informed when new content is posted. If you have visited my site before, WELCOME BACK! As much as I like to write about specific topics, I want to be available to answer your burning questions when it comes to your lung condition. After all… “We are in this TOGETHER” should mean something to my readers and my overall goal of providing a useful blog for people with lung conditions.

I absolutely love getting emails and messages from my readers each week. It lets me know how I can specifically help you and what topics I can blog about that might interest you. Keep those emails coming! It’s a great joy of mine to be helping each one of you in some small way and I want to make sure that I am covering all your concerns and questions about managing your lung condition from a day to day. In today’s blog, I’m going to share with you some of my “most asked” questions that have been sent to me and the advice and/or feedback that I have on the subjects. So let’s get into it!

Question #1: I have been performing your arm strengthening exercises (See Blog on Arm Strengthening) for a while and feel as though my arm strength is increasing. How do I advance my weight training exercise so that I can get maximum benefit from lifting my weights?

Answer: My recommendation to each of my pulmonary rehab patients is that you work on increasing your repetitions each time you exercise until you get to 20. Once you get to 20 repetitions (and you can get through this number with ease) increase your weight by one pound but drop your repetitions down accordingly (maybe 10-15). ***For those of you whose countries use kilograms, it may be hard to advance by 1 kg so if you have the option of increasing your weight by ½ kg that would be my recommendation otherwise I encourage you to go to 25-30 repetitions before you advance your weight*** The theme of all of this is be conservative with your adjustments yet try to constantly make progress. Also whenever you are doing any kind of strengthening exercises, don’t forget my 3 basic rules:

1. “If it hurts, don’t do it” –Prior to putting any weight in your hands… check to make sure you can perform the movement without any pain. If you experience any pain while lifting weights, STOP IMMEDIATELY and notify your doctor for recommendations. DO NOT keep going. “No pain, no gain” IS NOT our focus!!!

2. “Go slow” – Going slow is a great way to make sure you are performing the exercise with proper technique and will ultimately prevent any injury or sprain.

3. “Breathe” – We all have a tendency to hold our breath while lifting weights. Make sure you use your breath to help fuel your muscles and breathe in and blow out through each repetition. This is another great opportunity to practice using a breathing technique (See Breathing Techniques Blog).

Question #2: I have had a lot of weight gain due to inactivity and taking several rounds of prednisone for illness. Weight loss is a goal of mine and I have recently started exercising more but my question is, what diet recommendations do you have that you would recommend?

Answer: I am definitely not an expert on dieting but my recommendation would be a diet that is low in carbohydrates. A byproduct of carbohydrates is carbon dioxide and anyone with a lung condition doesn’t need extra carbon dioxide to get rid of. I personally had a lot of success using Weight Watchers when I had all three of my children (and no, I am not a spokesperson for this organization). My doctor recommended it to me because he felt like it was a great way to lose weight in a healthy way. My experience in recent years is that Weight Watchers is making “clean eating” (which means eliminating processed foods from you diet) and having a diet that is high in protein, fruits, and vegetables a focus for their plan. They allow you to eat some carbohydrates each day which for this pasta lover is a bonus. I love their online program which allows you to track your points through their app in order to have accountability to yourself. My successes have come not only from tracking my food but portion control and for that I can confidently say I like their program.

If you aren’t a fan of Weight Watchers, I also like what I have heard about the South Beach Diet. It seems like it would work well for lung patients also being low in carbohydrates. South Beach incorporates a lot of lean proteins (like fish, scallops, chicken) and veggies and fruits that are low in carbs. The South Beach diet has 3 phases:

Phase 1 – you eliminate refined sugar and starches. (It’s tough but only lasts for 2 weeks)

Phase 2 – you start to add “good” carbs (like whole wheat breads and pasta) back in.

Phase 3 – the maintenance phase. Maintaining healthy eating habits and occasionally eating “not so good for you” food in moderation.

Do your research to see which diet might be the best for you and definitely check with your doctor to get their input. I think the goal of both of these weight loss plans is to ultimately make a life style change when it comes to your eating habits. These explanations (undoubtedly) were very brief so I invite you in the comment section to tell readers what has worked for you in the past.

Question #3: I would love to participate in a pulmonary rehab program. Where can I find out where one is and how much does Medicare cover?

Answer: I’m so glad you are interested in pulmonary rehab! It is a passion of mine and for those that need it, it’s a great option to get educated on your lung condition and workout all at the same time! In the U.S. we have a wonderful accrediting agency for our cardio and pulmonary rehab called American Association for Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation (AACVPR). On their website you can find a directory on all the accredited programs in your area. Click here for the link to the AACVPR directory. Keep in mind that there are other centers that are fantastic that may not have pursued accreditation through this organization or maybe accredited through another organization. The directory is definitely not a complete list of all your options for pulmonary rehab but can be a good place to start and as always… do your own research to find the best option for you. ;)

When it comes to how much insurance companies cover for pulmonary rehab, there are too many differences to cover not only in a single blog but a single day! However according to “Medicare Part B (Medical Insurance) covers a comprehensive pulmonary rehabilitation program if you have moderate to very severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).” My question after reading this is “What about all the other lung conditions that need pulmonary rehab?” I would recommend calling your insurance to find out what amount they would cover for you to participate. Sometimes the pulmonary rehabilitation centers may have this information for you as well and they may be able to give you an idea what kind of coverage your insurance gives you.

Question #4: I don’t feel as though I am “sick” although I have had a lung condition for years. However, I have been noticing in recent months that my shortness of breath is worsening. How often should I be going to my pulmonologist and what tests could be done so that I can find out more?

Answer: I’m so sorry that your breathing has worsened. I agree you may not be having what I term a “flare-up” but your condition could possibly be advancing or possibly you may need to have your breathing medications adjusted. I would recommend you call your pulmonologist and let them know your concerns. Typically if it has been a while, they may want to get a chest x-ray to compare with one that you have had in the past to see if your condition is getting worse. I would also recommend if you want to learn more details of how your lungs are functioning that you ask your pulmonologist about repeating a pulmonary function test. Pulmonary function tests (or PFTs for short) are breathing tests that you doctor can order for you that would give you more feedback on how well your lungs are functioning. Lastly, in recent years there have been quite a few new inhaled medications available to the obstructive lung disease population. (i.e. COPD, Asthma, Bronchiectasis, Chronic Bronchitis). You may be a candidate for one of these newer medications that may help to manage your breathlessness a bit better.

Question #5: This morning when I was using my controller inhaler, I had a "coughing fit." I am not sure I gave myself an adequate treatment. Should I take the treatment again?

Answer: I can remember when my kids were babies and fighting ear infections, I would put the antibiotic in their mouths and half of it would ooze out! I would get so frustrated that maybe they didn’t get any of the medication. I voiced my frustration to their doctor and she told me not to worry, that they probably got some of it, and to try for a better dose the next time. Well, I am using that same philosophy when it comes to having a coughing “fit” when taking inhaled medications. Yes, you probably didn’t give yourself the best deposition that you could have, but the odds are that you were probably able to give yourself some of the medication. Therefore, I wouldn’t worry yourself too much and try for a good treatment the next time it is due. Also, I wouldn’t give yourself an additional treatment either. You don’t want to overuse some of your “controller” medications because that can have some side effects. Lastly, if the “coughing fits” persist, notify your doctor. He may want to make some changes to your medications.

Thanks for Reading!

Remember: We are in this TOGETHER!

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:) Christina

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Christina Hunt
Christina Hunt
May 10, 2019

@fiddlersgreen100 thank you so much for the feedback! I was wondering how they made it work for other diagnosis. 🤔


May 10, 2019

Re #3 I have Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis, not COPD. My Pulmonary Rehab did a lot of research, but finally got Medicare to pay for 36 (lifetime) rehab sessions. It's all in knowing the right billing codes.

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