National Pulmonary Rehabilitation Week is a chance to celebrate and raise awareness about pulmonary rehabilitation and its positive impact on the lives of people living with chronic pulmonary illnesses.
This year, the week falls on March 12–18. Established by the American Association for Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation (A.A.C.V.P.R.), this weeklong event highlights the importance of rehabilitating those suffering from lung-related issues such as COPD, asthma, emphysema, bronchitis and other chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (COPD).
What is Pulmonary Rehabilitation?
Pulmonary rehabilitation is a form of therapy that helps those with respiratory illnesses improve their quality of life by improving their ability to breathe more easily and perform everyday activities. It consists of exercises, lifestyle changes, counseling sessions, education programs and breathing techniques that can help seniors manage their condition better.
The goal is to reduce shortness of breath and increase daily activities for those living with a chronic lung disease or injury. Commonly used methods include:
• Aerobic exercises such as walking/jogging
• Resistance training
• Breathing techniques
• Functional fitness training
• Dietary modifications
• Stress-reduction techniques
• Smoking-cessation counseling
• Mindfulness techniques
• Yoga/tai chi/qigong classes
• Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
• Nutritional guidance
• Vocational support services
• Recreational activities such as swimming or biking
• Medication management education
Common Pulmonary Issues in Seniors
As we age, our lungs tend to weaken due to natural wear and tear over time. Some common issues found among seniors are COPD flare-ups, asthma attacks, sleep apnea or poor air quality in the home due to inadequate venting or mold growth caused by excessive moisture buildup in walls or ceilings.
Less common but still serious chronically progressive respiratory conditions include Interstitial Lung Disease (ILD), Cystic Fibrosis (CF) and Primary Ciliary Dyskinesia (PCD).
Easy Steps Toward Improving Pulmonary Function
Fortunately there are steps seniors can take to improve pulmonary function:
1) Exercise regularly: Aerobic exercises such as walking are great for seniors looking to improve their lung capacity as it helps strengthen your heart and lungs for improved oxygen delivery throughout your body — plus it keeps you fit! Strength training also helps build endurance so you can get more out of each exercise session while being more physically active throughout the day.
2) Quit smoking: Smoking reduces lung function significantly which can worsen existing COPD symptoms or even lead to new ones like coughing up mucus regularly or experiencing breathlessness during simple tasks like walking up stairs or standing up from a seated position too quickly. Quitting smoking will help keep your lungs healthy so you can stay active without feeling out of breath or having chest pain during everyday activities.
3) Avoid exposure to pollutants: Pollutants in our environment can have an adverse effect on our lungs resulting in inflammation which could lead to difficulty breathing especially when exercising outdoors — especially if you live near an industrial area where pollution levels are higher than average.
4) Avoid allergens: Your respiratory system may be sensitive to certain allergens like dust mites or pet dander resulting in a reaction known as hay fever which causes nasal congestion/runny nose along with sneezing fits which could potentially lead to coughing episodes if not treated properly
5) Stay hydrated: Hydration is key for keeping your throat clear as it washes away irritants before they get into your lungs which could cause inflammation leading to wheezing difficulty breathing.
6) Improve air quality at home: Ensure proper ventilation inside your house by keeping doors/windows open as much as possible during summer months when air quality is better outside than inside due to lack of humidity control indoors – alternatively check filter/air conditioning maintenance regularly if you have one at home.
7) Get vaccinated against flu & pneumonia: Flu season coincides with winter months when air quality tends be poorer in many parts of the world. Getting vaccinated against flu and pneumonia annually helps protect yourself from catching these airborne infections which could worsen existing respiratory problems making them harder to manage without medical intervention.
Taking these simple steps could go a long way toward keeping your lungs healthy as you age, allowing you to enjoy life without feeling out of breath during everyday activities.
Exercises for Improving Pulmonary Function
By making use of pulmonary rehabilitation programs, people can avoid needing emergency acute care and also improve their overall health and wellbeing. The main objective of these programs is to help seniors maintain or improve their ability to breathe, by teaching them various exercises and steps they can take in order to do so.
Here are some exercises that you may encounter in a rehabilitation program to improve pulmonary function:
Chest Physiotherapy: This therapy is used primarily in people with conditions such as cystic fibrosis and emphysema, who often have difficulty clearing mucus from their lungs. Chest physiotherapy helps them clear out this excess mucus by clapping or pounding on their chest walls with cupped hands.
Diaphragmatic Breathing Exercises: These exercises help people strengthen their diaphragm muscle which assists with breathing deeply from the abdomen. To practice diaphragmatic breathing exercises, you should lie down on your back with one hand on their chest and one hand on the abdomen, then slowly inhale through the nose for three seconds before exhaling through pursed lips for four seconds as you contract your stomach muscles slightly during inhalation and exhalation.
Postural Drainage: This exercise is used to help loosen up secretions from certain areas of the lungs before coughing it out, by placing a person in certain positions where gravity helps drain it out more easily. To practice postural drainage, sit at an incline against a wall while you gently pat or tap different parts of the body that correspond with specific lung regions — like tapping each side of your chest for upper lobe drainage or thumping your lower back area to drain lower lobe secretions. This should be followed by coughing or expecting sputum out afterwards until all areas have been drained completely.
Pursed Lips Breathing Exercise: This exercise helps reduce shortness of breath associated with COPD or other conditions that cause air trapping in the lungs by helping you exhale better and longer than normal breaths do alone; it also encourages taking deeper breaths more often as well as providing relaxation benefits through slow, deep-breathing techniques.
To perform this exercise correctly, you should first exhale forcefully through pursed lips until most air has been expelled before inhaling through nostrils slowly over two counts. Then, hold your breath momentarily before releasing it again through pursed lips slowly over four counts. This cycle should be repeated several times until desired results have been achieved.
Breath Awareness Training: Breath awareness training helps people recognize when they are not relaxing during inhalation or exhalation due to high stress or anxiety levels.
To properly practice breath awareness training, pay close attention how each part of your body moves throughout every exhale and inhale sequence. After reaching full relaxation mode, you can then better recognize which body parts tense up while breathing.
Pranayama Yoga Breathing Exercise: Pranayama yoga combines physical movements with breathing techniques designed to reduce stress and improve overall wellbeing including respiratory system function. These types of yoga practices follow set sequences comprised of inhalation, retention and exhalation, which can be achieved at different intensity and skill levels.
Contact Us Today
With the start of National Pulmonary Rehabilitation Week, prospective patients and their families can take this opportunity to educate themselves on the many rehabilitative services offered by Cass County Medical Care Facility.
Our staff are trained in long-term, pulmonary rehabilitation care, among other physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy and in-patient services. Contact us today with your questions or to learn more about our comprehensive care options!