Breathing a sigh of relief

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Pulmonary rehab aids lung function

For people who have breathing problems, there is hope. In addition to prescribed medical treatments, a personalized rehab program can further improve quality of life.

Pulmonary rehab combines supervised exercise, education, and support to help participants learn to breathe and function at their highest level possible. Classes are performed in a group setting, which allows participants to meet others with similar conditions and provide peer support.

Pulmonary rehab is for people who are diagnosed with a chronic lung disease or condition that causes a significant limitation or handicap. This may include chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), congestive heart failure (CHF), asthma, pulmonary fibrosis, or lung cancer.

These conditions often limit a person’s social and leisure activities, employment, and personal independence.

In Illinois, an estimated 1.5 million adults have a chronic lung disease (Edgar County–2,165, and Clark County–1,902), according to the American Lung Association.

Respiratory therapists work closely with each patient to manage his or her breathing problem, increase stamina, and decrease breathlessness during cardiovascular and strengthening exercises. The therapists educate patients about the use of medications/inhalers, breathing techniques, nutrition, home oxygen, and more.

Although pulmonary rehab cannot cure lung disease, it can improve lung function, reduce symptom severity, and increase the ability to exercise. Pulmonary rehab may even decrease the need for hospital visits, the American Lung Association states.

Typically, a pulmonary rehab program is two or three times a week for 12 weeks. After completing a program, it is important to continue exercising to maintain the progress that has been made, according to the American Thoracic Society. Before “graduating” from the program, pulmonary rehab staff design patients a long-term exercise plan.

Pulmonary rehab is available at Horizon Health. The Respiratory Therapy Department operates the program, in conjunction with cardiac rehab. A medical referral is required. For more information, call 217-466-4374.