Medical Minute 12-1: Breathing Easier with COPD

By: Andrew McIntosh Email
By: Andrew McIntosh Email

Tackling stairs, Kay Ferguson starts her day with a ten minute trek, toting around a 28-pound oxygen tank, and that's just the beginning of her day. The panda's at the San Diego Zoo give Kay the motivation to stay healthy.

"Bears keep me coming to work every day."

After 15 years as narrator at the panda exhibit-she had to take a break when her COPD took over.

Although Kay gave up smoking 25 years ago - the 30 years she did light up caught up with her. She became housebound -until she found rehab could get her back to her bears.

"She was really motivated."

Here in UC-SD's pulmonary rehab-patients focus on exercise and weight training-the key is to find out what motivates each person.

"When you do that, people feel better able to do life."

Therapists help the patients do more-and be more aware of their body while doing it.

"People don't think taking a shower is exercise, but if you have a lung disease and limited air flow, it's exercise," Trina Limberg, Respiratory Therapist UC San Diego.

Also, what you put into your body can make a difference. New research finds 100 milligrams of ginseng a day for three months improved a patients ability to exercise. Vitamins C, D and E help reduce inflammation. Kali mur eases wet coughs. Japanese researchers have found omega -3 fatty acids decreased inflammation in the airway and helped more than 64-percent of patients breathe easier.

Exercising, eating right and incorporating oxygen into her daily routine got Kay back on track. And it's this work with her panda's that will keep Kay moving for many years to come.

For more information on other series produced by Ivanhoe Broadcast News contact John Cherry at (407) 691-1500,


WHAT IS COPD? Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease is a disease that makes it hard to breathe due to damage to the lungs over many years, usually from smoking. It is often a mix of diseases: chronic bronchitis and emphysema. In chronic bronchitis, the airways that carry air to lungs get inflamed and make a lot of mucus. This can narrow or block the airways, making it difficult to breath. Tiny air sacs that are like balloons normally get bigger and smaller to move air in a healthy person. However, with emphysema the air sacs get damaged and can no longer stretch, therefore less air gets in and out of the lungs, makes one feel short of breath. COPD gets worse overtime and the damage on the lungs cannot be undone. (

CAUSES: COPD is almost always caused by first hand smoking. Overtime, breathing tobacco smoke irritates the airways and destroys the stretchy fibers in the lungs. However other causes can include breathing in chemical fumes, dust or air pollution over a long period of time. Secondhand smoke is also just as bad. COPD is most common in people in their 60s orolder. (

SYMPTOMS: The main symptoms of COPD includes: long chronic cough, mucus that comes up when you cough, shortness of breath that gets worse when you exercise. At times, symptoms can get worse during simple tasks such as while getting dressed or fixing a meal. Also, people with COPD are more likely to get lung infections, therefore it is recommended to get a flu vaccine every year, as well as a pneumococcal shot. The pneumococcal shot may not prevent pneumonia, but one may not be as sick.

AT HOME MANAGEMENT: People with COPD can do things at home to stay as healthy as they can. Try avoiding things that can irritate the lungs such as smoke, pollution and air that is cold and dry. Make sure to use the air conditioner or air filter at home. Also, take rest breaks throughout the day. Regular exercise can also help people with COPD stay strong. Lastly, eat well to keep up strength. One of the common symptoms of COPD is the buildup of excessive chest mucus and for this there are a number of homeopathic remedies that can help. Kali mur is one such ingredient and it is well known for its beneficial effects of the respiratory system and its ability to ease wet coughs. Kali mur is usually recommended during the second stage of nasal and chest congestion, when the mucosal discharge is white or gray in color, instead of clear or green in color. (

For More Information, Contact:

Trina Limberg
Pulmonary Rehab Program Director
UCSD Medical Center
(619) 543-7333

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