Women Living with COPD: Ask the Healthcare Provider

Respiratory Health Association sat down with MeiLan K. Han, MD, MS, Professor and Director of the Michigan Airways Program at the University of Michigan Health System to address some questions from women living with COPD.

What should women know about COPD?

Women are at equal risk for COPD as men, and in fact some studies suggest women are more susceptible. Women also comprise a higher percentage of individuals living with COPD who have never smoked.

Dr. Han stated that while it is certain that more women die of COPD than men in the US, this may be related to lower risk of dying from other things like heart disease, which, may affect men at an earlier age. However, she emphasized that women with COPD may present with greater symptoms than men and may experience more frequent exacerbations.

How do women know if they should have a COPD screening? When should women be screened for COPD?

If someone is feeling short of breath with activities or experiencing frequent respiratory infections, regardless of smoking history she should discuss with her physician undergoing a breathing test called “spirometry”.

What are steps that women can take to manage their COPD?

There are medications that can help in addition to exercise and life-style management strategies. Patients should talk to their doctor about the most appropriate medications for them and also inquire about whether they would benefit from pulmonary rehabilitation, a formal exercise and disease management program.

Interested in learning more about how women can recognize the signs of lung diseases like COPD? Dr. Han shares some more advice:

Let’s Talk About Living Better with COPD

November is National COPD Awareness Month, a time to talk about the disease and raise awareness around symptoms and treatment. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is a lung disease that causes difficulty breathing and shortness of breath due to airflow blockage. COPD affects nearly 16 million Americans, and millions more live with undiagnosed symptoms. Earlier diagnosis can help those living with COPD begin to improve their health and quality of life.

COPD may be a large burden on an individual. Without proper management and education, COPD can affect all sorts of activities of daily living. Anxiety and depression among COPD patients and their caregivers only make the problem worse. If you are living with COPD, it is important to recognize any changes in your symptoms and any limitations on your activities to better manage day-to-day living with COPD. The following are recommendations for living well everyday with COPD.

Recognize the importance of practicing prevention strategies

It is important to monitor changes to physical and mental health when living with COPD. Below is a list of prevention recommendations:

  • Get vaccinated (annual influenza and routine pneumonia);
  • Wash your hands routinely. Stay home when you are ill;
  • Stop smoking if you currently do, and eliminate exposure to secondhand smoke;
  • Review your medication list with your health care providers to ensure the list is current and you know how to properly use your medications;
  • Ensure you have a sufficient supply of medication at home, especially during winter;
  • Be aware of changes in mental health and communicate any changes to your health care provider and informal caregiver (spouse, child, etc.).

Monitor symptoms of COPD

People living with COPD should track symptoms and share any changes with a health care provider:

  • Please share any increase in coughing or difficulty breathing with your healthcare provider;
  • If a new medication is not working for you and not minimizing your symptoms, please tell your health care provider;
  • It is always okay to obtain a second opinion.

Anxiety and depression are common in patients with COPD and their caregivers

Mental health may impact someone’s ability to manage his or her COPD. It is important to be aware of the following:

  • Anxiety and depression in COPD patients is associated with increased COPD flare-ups, increased hospitalizations, longer lengths of a hospital stay, and decreased quality of life;
  • Be an active part of your care team. Be proactive with your physical AND mental health care;
  • Maintain physical activity, especially in fall and winter. Physical activity can have positive benefits on physical health and mental well-being—make sure to talk to health care providers about physical activities you can do indoors or at home.

If you care for someone living with COPD, it’s important to also take care of your own well-being. View RHA’s Caregiver’s Toolkit to learn more about ways you can help support those you care for while taking time for yourself.

If you live with COPD or want to learn more, sign-up to receive our Inspiration COPD Newsletter.

Respiratory Therapists are Lung Health Heroes

This week is Respiratory Care Week – a time to celebrate respiratory therapists who work tirelessly helping those living with lung diseases breathe easier. Whether testing for lung function in a young child with asthma, or helping someone with COPD use an oxygen tank, respiratory therapists give people the power to take control and live to the fullest.

Their work is especially important considering how common lung diseases are in the United States:

• 25 million people live with asthma
• 16 million live with COPD and another 16 million have undiagnosed symptoms
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths among men and women

Respiratory therapists help people better understand and manage their illnesses, allowing them to live without distraction from symptoms. They also provide treatments to those in need of care, improving lung health and way of life.

For respiratory therapists like Rose Riggins, CRTT of AMITA LaGrange in Illinois, it’s way more than a job – it’s getting to know people, their lives and their stories.

“Working with the patients throughout the years has made them feel like family,” she says.

If you are living with lung disease, here are some of respiratory therapists’ most common tips for preventing additional complications and living the healthiest way possible:

• Get a flu shot every year to prevent additional complications of lung disease
• Live smoke-free and avoid secondhand smoke or close contact with smokers
• Eat right to maintain the most energy for staying healthy
• Avoid chemicals – like scented candles and harsh household cleaners – that may cause lung flare-ups
Monitor air quality and avoid the outdoors on poor air quality days

Join RHA this week and every day in saying thank you to respiratory therapists everywhere!

To learn more about becoming a respiratory therapist, view these resources.

Living Better Together Conference Brings Together COPD Community

Do you live with COPD or care for someone who does? Join Respiratory Health Association on Thursday, November 21, 2019 for our 16th annual Living Better Together COPD Conference at Meridian Banquets and Conference Center in Rolling Meadows, IL.

Every year, we host the largest patient-focused COPD event in the United States. The conference – which welcomed nearly 300 people in 2018 – gives those living with COPD, their families and caregivers a chance to come together to promote disease awareness and share stories. The day-long conference will also feature speakers presenting on a variety of topics, including:

  • Cardiovascular Conditions in Patients with COPD
  • Updates in Oxygen Use
  • New Treatments for Emphysema: Endobronchial Valves
  • Patient Empowerment: Advanced Care Planning
  • Latest in COPD Medications
  • Physical Therapy and Music Therapy

New this year — our “Ask the Healthcare Provider” session will feature an expert panel answering frequently asked questions about oxygen use, current COPD treatments and how to better self-manage COPD.

Registration is currently open until early November. Register Online

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is actually the general term for a group of lung diseases that block airflow and make it difficult to breathe. Emphysema and chronic bronchitis are two of the most common conditions that make up COPD.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 16 million Americans report they have been diagnosed with COPD. It is estimated another 16 million people have symptoms of the disease but have not yet been diagnosed. To learn more about COPD and how to manage the condition, explore our resources:

If you need additional information on the conference or help registering, please contact Hannah Garza (312-628-0207) or Avanthi Chatrathi (312-229-6186).

people pose at event

Living Better Together brings together people living with COPD, their caregivers and healthcare providers.

RHA to Study Impact of Air Pollution on Public Health in Chicago

All but two of the Chicago Transit Authority’s (CTA) 1,800 buses run on diesel fuel. Respiratory Health Association knows the health and environmental effects of vehicle pollution in the air and is focused on finding healthier transportation options for Chicago.

This summer, the Joyce Foundation awarded a one-year grant to help RHA explore the impacts of air pollution in communities throughout the city of Chicago. Funds will support a study of how diesel buses affect the lung health of residents and help increase efforts to educate leaders and the public on the potential benefits of electric vehicles.

Traffic at nighit in city

RHA’s study will explore the potential health benefits of using electric buses in place of diesel-powered vehicles.

“We see electric buses as a great opportunity, if not a necessity, for a healthier Chicago,” commented Erica Salem, RHA Senior Director, Strategy, Programs & Policy. “The Joyce Foundation’s generous grant allows us to examine how our city can move toward transportation options that provide cleaner air and healthy lungs for all Chicagoans.”

RHA will work closely with the University of Chicago’s Spatial Data Science and the Chicago Department of Public Health to study the health effect diesel buses have across different Chicago neighborhoods. Teams will compare data of those living with lung diseases who also live near busy bus routes, bus garages or maintenance shops to residents living in lower bus traffic communities.

This work builds on RHA’s efforts to secure Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s pledge for cleaner bus options. Chicago lags behind other major US cities like New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco, which have announced plans to move to all electric buses sometime in the next 20 years.

RHA will release a final report in the spring of 2020.

Flu Shot is a Gift for Your Lungs

Vaccines are a safe and important part of medical care for everyone. Regular immunizations prevent common bugs like the flu and limit the spread of disease through schools, workplaces and communities. For people living with lung disease, a flu shot is especially important. Someone with asthma or COPD:

  • Has a greater risk of catching common infections like the flu
  • May feel added effects from flu symptoms
  • Is more likely to develop pneumonia or other lung problems

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports flu shots may lower the risk of getting sick by 40 to 60 percent. It also helps those who cannot receive a shot, including children under 6 months old. Additionally, the CDC typically recommends a one-time pneumonia shot for those who live with lung disease.

August is National Immunization Awareness Month, and a great time to talk with your doctor about ways to stay healthy going into peak flu season. Flu cases are most common in the fall and winter, especially between December and February. Ask if you are up-to-date on past vaccines and about getting an annual flu shot.

If you do not have a regular doctor or healthcare provider, there are a number of local and national resources to help:

Save the date: COPD Patient Conference

Join us on Thursday, November 21, 2019 for Respiratory Health Association’s 16th annual Living Better Together COPD Conference at Meridian Banquets and Conference Center in Rolling Meadows, IL. RHA’s goal at the 2019 COPD conference is to promote disease awareness and to help people who are living with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) to become educated consumers of healthcare, as well as effective disease self-managers.

At last year’s event, nearly 300 individuals living with COPD, caregivers and pulmonary rehab staff enjoyed a variety of sessions, including a moderated keynote, “Living Everyday with COPD”. Panelists Ravi Kalhan, MD, MS and Harvey Wolf, Psy.D shared recommendations on preventing COPD exacerbations, methods for monitoring symptoms of COPD, and tips to manage the comorbidities of anxiety and depression in patients with COPD.

Conference planning is under way and people living with COPD and their caregivers will not want to miss this year’s event. Registration will open in September. Supplemental oxygen and bus transportation from locations throughout Chicagoland will be offered.

Living Better Together is the country’s largest patient-focused COPD conference. We welcome individual or group attendance. If you have any questions about Living Better Together logistics, programming or attendance, please contact RHA program coordinator Avanthi Chatrathi at (312) 229-6186 or [email protected].

Dr. Ravi Kalhan Receives 2019 Solovy Award for COPD Research

Respiratory Health Association (RHA) is pleased to name Ravi Kalhan, MD, MS, Director of the Northwestern Asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) Program, as recipient of the 2019 Solovy Award for Advancement in COPD.

Kathleen Hart Solovy and Dr. Ravi KalhanDr. Kalhan additionally serves as director of the Alpha-1-Antitrypsin Deficiency Clinical Resource Center at Northwestern and medical director of the lung volume reduction surgery (LVRS) program. Dr. Kalhan’s clinical interests are in the care of patients with both asthma and COPD as well as alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency. His research interests relate to respiratory epidemiology, in particular, identification of early risk factors that impact the vulnerability of certain cigarette smokers to develop COPD. He is also involved in clinical trials of new therapies for both asthma and COPD.

Dr. Kalhan additionally serves as Chairman of the Illinois COPD Coalition, a multidisciplinary group, including representatives from community-based organizations, public health departments, professional organizations, patients, caregivers, healthcare providers, pharmaceutical companies and home healthcare providers. They have the goal of implementing sustainable solutions for reducing the burden of COPD in Illinois.

The 2019 Solovy Award was presented to Dr. Kalhan by RHA board member Kathleen Hart Solovy as part of RHA’s year-end reception on June 27, 2019. Funding for the award is provided by the Kathleen Hart Solovy and Jerold S. Solovy Endowment for COPD.

Each year Respiratory Health Association awards early-stage research grants to promising projects covering lung diseases such as lung cancer, idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Learn more about RHA’s research program and funding opportunities.

A Daughter’s Dedication Drives Stacey Woodward to Run

Denny and family

Denny and family

A Daughter’s Dedication Drives Stacey Woodward to Run

This year’s Chicago Marathon isn’t Stacey Woodward’s first, but it may be her most emotional. This marathon is dedicated to her father, Denny Wright, who passed away from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in December.

Stacey is the assistant news director at WBAL TV in Maryland, and a member of Respiratory Health Association’s Lung Power Team for the Chicago Marathon. She’s running for advancements in COPD research as a way to memorialize her father, who spent much of his time learning more about the disease and researching COPD treatments.

“Besides being stubborn, we’re not alike at all,” Stacey laughs of her father.

After serving in the US Army during the Vietnam War, Denny took up flying as an amateur pilot.

“He was diagnosed with PTSD after the Vietnam War, and I think flying was a bit therapeutic for him,” Stacey reflects.

As Denny flew over the Eastern Shore of Maryland, Stacey was across the country in Sacramento. There, in a city where she knew no one, she found a community of runners. In her early 20s she joined a team and began training.

When he was later diagnosed with COPD, Denny had to make several lifestyle changes. Once he was on oxygen he could no longer fly. “That really upset him,” Stacey says.

But Denny continued to seek adventure, including traveling and spending time with friends where he was “always the life of the party.” As travel became increasingly difficult, Denny’s determination and curiosity only grew. He decided to become as informed as he could about his condition, which included reading the latest research on COPD and working with his health care providers to explore additional treatment options.

Denny with a young Stacey

Denny with a young Stacey

The Department of Veterans Affairs later confirmed that chemical exposure during his time in the army had contributed to Denny’s illness, along with several other risk factors. While tobacco use is the most common cause of COPD, environmental factors and genetics also play a role.

Unfortunately, COPD research remains vastly underfunded and the role of environmental factors, including chemical exposure, in the development of COPD isn’t fully understood.

Despite Denny’s effort and attempts to receive a lung transplant, he passed away on December 1, 2017 at 70 years old.

Denny donated his body to science to contribute to the advancement in COPD research. Stacey joins him by running for the Lung Power Team and fundraising for current and future research.

When she struggles during a run, Stacey thinks of her dad—and she surrounds herself with support, including many of his friends from the VFW. There’s a certain amount of stubbornness—perhaps better called persistence—required to run a marathon, and she has her dad to thank for that.

Stacey says of the calm that she experiences after a run, “It’s rejuvenating. Running is a journey. Often I do not look forward to it, but I love the feeling after I’m done.”

To support Stacey and her father’s dedication to COPD research, donate to her fundraising.

RHA Receives Funding to Help COPD Patients and Family Caregivers

RHA Receives Funding to Help COPD Patients and Family Caregivers

Respiratory Health Association (RHA) was recently awarded funding in the form of a subcontract from the National, Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), part of the National Institutes of Health, to help further the goals of the COPD National Action Plan to reduce the burden of COPD nationwide. This subcontract—one of just six awarded nationwide—is part of the NHLBI’s COPD Learn More Breathe Better® program and aims to conduct education and awareness activities around chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and its risk factors.

The focus of RHA’s subcontract is on providing resources to informal family caregivers of people living with COPD. Through its work with the COPD community, RHA identified a significant gap in educational and support resources dedicated to COPD caregivers. COPD caregivers are often underprepared for the range of roles and tasks required in tending to a family member or friend with COPD. In response, RHA developed The COPD Caregiver’s Toolkit, a comprehensive resource based on input from caregivers, patients and health care providers.

“This subcontract is an exciting opportunity for us to help people living with COPD and their caregivers,” said Joel Africk, RHA’s President and Chief Executive Officer. “We are committed to advancing the goals of the COPD National Action Plan and we are thrilled to receive NHLBI’s support for our COPD community and surrounding regions.”

With this award, RHA will disseminate approximately 300 copies of The COPD Caregiver’s Toolkit through health care providers in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin in an effort to reduce the burden of COPD and improve disease treatment and management.

For additional information on the disease and the COPD Learn More Breathe Better program: COPD.nhlbi.nih.gov.

Visit https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/copd/subcontractors/subcontractor-program.htm to learn more about the community partner subcontractor program.