Cardiac and pulmonary diseases are conditions that affect the lungs and heart. Cardiac rehabilitation may benefit those who have experienced a recent heart attack or cardiac surgery, as well as other heart-related health problems.
Pulmonary rehabilitation may be beneficial to individuals with asthma, chronic bronchitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema, or other lung conditions.
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
What is COPD?
COPD is chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and is caused by long-term exposure to irritants that damage the lungs and the airways. In the United States, the most common irritant that causes COPD is cigarette smoke. However, not everyone who smokes develops COPD and not everyone with COPD has a history of smoking.
Additional causes of COPD include:
- Exposure to work-related dusts and chemicals— Breathing in certain vapors, fumes and dusts (such as coal or silica) in the workplace environment can contribute to the development of COPD.
- Secondhand smoke - Many nonsmokers who live with smokers develop cigarette-related COPD due to secondhand smoke. Individuals who work in smoke-filled environments, such as bars or restaurants, could also develop COPD.
- Indoor air pollutants - Small particles of soot from leaky stoves used to cook food or heat homes can contribute to indoor air pollution and the development of COPD. Poorly ventilated homes also may be a factor.
- Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency—Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency is a genetic condition in which people have low levels of alpha-1 antitrypsin (AAT), a protein made in the liver. Alpha-1 can only be diagnosed with a blood test.
Treatment of COPD
The Grace Anne Dorney Pulmonary & Cardiac Rehabilitation Center is a progressive program at MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital. It features comprehensive services to provide medically-supervised exercise and education related to pulmonary and cardiac disease. The center is easily accessible, conveniently located just inside the front entrance of the hospital near the main lobby. The center offers two phases of rehabilitation – Phase 2 and Phase 3 .
Phase 2 - Participants receives an individualized assessment including physical status; nutrition and weight management needs; exercise tolerance; smoking cessation; and psycho-social needs. From this assessment a care plan is developed with the participant. Educational sessions are provided on lifestyle modifications and disease management to maximize success.
The program includes three sessions per week for approximately 12 weeks for maximum benefits. During the sessions, participants are monitored for responses to exercise on telemetry monitors, pulse oximetry for oxygen levels and other assessment tools as needed.
Phase 3 - The program involves an intake assessment and the development of an individualized exercise program. The participant may then begin a supervised exercise program two days per week. During the session, participants exercise under the supervision of staff who specialize in pulmonary and cardiac rehabilitation. Oxygen is available and included in the program. Educational sessions are also provided on lifestyle modifications to improve participants’ health.
Medications for COPD
Steroids are used to reduce swelling and mucus production in the lungs making breathing easier. This is NOT an emergency drug of choice. These drugs should be used daily as prescribed to avoid breathing
Bronchodilators are typically inhaled medicines that relax the muscles around your airways. This helps open your airways and makes breathing easier. Depending on the severity of your COPD, your doctor may prescribe short-acting or long-acting bronchodilators. Short-acting bronchodilators last about four to six hours and should be used only when needed. Long-acting bronchodilators last about 12 hours or more and are used every day.
If your COPD is more severe, or if your symptoms flare up often, your doctor may prescribe a combination of medicines that include a bronchodilator and an inhaled steroid. Steroids help reduce airway inflammation. Whichever medication or medications you are prescribed, it is important to take each of them as directed and with the proper technique.
Tobacco Use & Health Risks
Tobacco is strongly linked to multiple types of cancer and other diseases including COPD. There are many different forms that tobacco can be ingested or smoked, including cigarettes, cigars, electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes, vape pens, etc.), hookas, and smokeless tobacco, like chewing tobacco and dissolvable products.
Vaping: The Newest Trend
Although not as toxic as smoking regular cigarettes, the use of electronic cigarettes still come with many risks including exposure to nicotine and other aerosols, which are known to cause cancer. Electronic nicotine delivery systems, which include e-cigarettes, vape pens, e-hookahs, e-cigars, personal vaporizers, and electronic pipes, use a battery to heat a liquid that contains nicotine, flavorings, and other additives, which is inhaled into the lungs.
Know the Risks
- Exposure to nicotine: Nicotine is highly addictive, can harm adolescent brain development, and is toxic to fetuses.
- Exposure to aerosols: Aerosols may contain harmful substances including cancer-causing chemicals and tiny particles that reach deep inside the lungs.
- Increases risk of using other tobacco products: For teens and adolescents, serves as a gateway to using combustible cigarettes.
- Poisoning: Accidental exposure to even small amounts of liquid nicotine – as little as a teaspoon - can be fatal to children and a slightly larger amount could kill an adult.
- Burns: Batteries can explode, causing severe injury.
Contact Us Today
Better Breathers Club
If you have a pulmonary disease, such as COPD, join us to learn how to better cope with the disease. We will discuss several pulmonary-related topics, such as breathing techniques, home health care and exercise. This program is in partnership with the American Lung Association. Call 240-434-7143 for more information. No cost!
Cigarette smoke is the leading cause of COPD in the United States. The St. Mary’s County Health Department offers 8-week Smoking Cessation Class on a regular basis. The class will help you gain knowledge about your smoking habit along with behavioral modifications, stress management and cease-smoking techniques. The classes are free of charge with medication to help you quit. For more information, call 301-475-4330.