A few weeks ago I popped along to the Breathe Easy group based in Ilkeston which supports people living with a wide range of lung diseases. This coincided with the launch of a new campaign run by the British Lung Foundation, Listen to your Lungs, to help raise awareness of respiratory disease, with the aim of earlier diagnosis and more focus on research.
There is a myth that respiratory disease only affects smokers or those people who are overweight, so, in effect, self-inflicted. My mum was just eight stone and never smoked but suffered from a terminal lung disease called idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.
Sadly, one person dies of lung disease every five minutes across the UK and this is the biggest killer after cardiovascular and non-respiratory cancer. Add to this, well over 12 million people in the UK have a history of longstanding respiratory illness and have to live with it every day. Erewash residents are no exception.
Around one in ten people experience chronic levels of breathlessness. This rises to three in ten in those who are over 70 years of age. I have seen firsthand just how frightening and disabling breathlessness can be, but many people ignore the symptoms assuming it is normal and fail to act on it.
It may seem contradictory but physical activity can actually improve breathing. Those with lung disease should be offered pulmonary rehabilitation which is a programme of exercise and education designed to help each individual manage their condition.
Everyone can get out of breath sometimes, but when people feel breathless doing every day activities such as walking upstairs, then they should recognise that this isn’t normal. This could be a sign of lung disease such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), pulmonary fibrosis or other condition.
Early diagnosis can improve the benefits of treatments and therefore quality of life. This is the responsibility of bot the individual and the health care professional and hopefully the new awareness campaign will also play its part.
The British Lung Foundation is the only UK charity that looks after the nation’s lungs and offer support and advice as well as lobbying for more recognition of lung disease and carrying out research for new treatments and cures.
The charity supports more than 230 Breathe Easy patient support groups UK-wide. They are run by their members and meet regularly to provide support and information for people living with a lung condition as well as those who look after them.
Locally, Breathe Easy Ilkeston support group meets on the third Wednesday of every month at the Methodist Church on Nottingham Road. For more information just call 03000 030 555.