British Lung Foundation
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Diagnosed with COPD

I went for a full check up before a hip replacement operation. After getting of the treadmill (Stress EKG ) they did the blow thing with me and my first reading was only 68%. I then told the Dr's assistant I was still out of breath after the treadmill, and she took a reading again which was in the 80 something percentage. The Internist then told me that I have first stage COPD and I got the scare of my life and did not smoke again after that. This all happened 6 weeks ago and in the meantime I had the hip replacement which was successful but the COPD still scare the heck out of me. I'm 57 tomorrow.

The Dr however told me I'm in the beginning stage of COPD and that the newest findings are that if you remove the smoking or whatever caused the emphysema the lungs will age more or less the same as anybody else's but the damage already done obviously cannot be repaired. He says I will most likely die of something else because I stopped smoking, and told me not too worry too much and gave me a cortisone inhaler to use at night time. Funny thing - I was never short of breath before but when I sit thinking about this at night, I now suddenly get anxious and short breathed. Then I go for a walk with the dog to proof that I'm still ok - lol

We do not have all the support groups that you guys have in the UK so my questions are 1) if I got the right feedback from the Dr? and 2) I'm retiring in 3 years and thinking to move down to the sea where I've got a house. Will staying at the sea be better than Pretoria which is almost 2000 Meters above sea level.

Thanking you

Piet Barnard

8 Replies

Hello Piet, welcome to the site. Great you've given up smoking. You've got a lot to deal with at present with the hip replacement but what your doc says (2nd para) is correct. What you haven't mentioned him saying is that besides quitting smoking, exercise is vital to slow down any progression. This is because we need to keep our muscles as conditioned as possible as they will then use oxygen much more efficiently which means less breathlessness when moving around so you can do more exercise . Without exercise muscles will de-condition more and more and use O2 less efficiently which is not a good outlook - a vicious circle which you need to avoid. So as soon as your hip replacement has healed up and your doc gives you the all-clear, the more exercise you can manage the better, though always start slowly from where you are at. There are youtubes with pulmonary rehabilitation exercise programmes for people with copd. But see if there are any PR courses in your area.

The air at 2000 metres is likely to be thinner, i.e. less oxygen - I moved from London to the coast in Kent and it made a big difference to me - so Im sure your move will help you. Im not a medic but your difficulty in breathing when you are anxious and since you had the diagnosis sounds like some kind of panic attack. If going out for a walk makes it better then its not due to lack of oxygen at that time. You could try slow deep breathing - diaphragmatic breathing you can find demos on youtube for this too.

Im sure others will be along and have more advice for you but also if you click on the red balloon top right of the page you'll get contact details for the British Lung Foundation helpline. Their nurses are brilliant, its free, and I'm sure worth an international call.

Good luck :)


Thank you for the quick response. Yes I think my own thoughts are my worst enemy at the moment. I started to exercise about a 2 weeks back but it is still going slowly as my leg muscles are not fully healed yet. I'm walking the dog and manage about 2 miles per night at the moment and must say the pace picked up since 2 weeks ago as my German shepherd also gets a bit out of breath. The first mile is uphill and the obviously what goes up must come down again. I do get a little breathless when I get to the top of the hill but keep on walking as I quickly recover on the downhill. To be honest if I take another route that's level I do not get breathless at all.

I can only remember only getting out of breath twice 1) about 5 months ago. Wifey and I was doing what one do when you married, and as there was a lot of pressure on my abdomen (I've got a Hiatus Hernia) I thought the Hernia was responsible for the breath shortage. It took me a good 5 minutes to get my breathing back to normal again. It actually felt as if I could not get enough air into my lungs. 2) I was busy with a barbecue and the fat caught fire which I inhaled. Again it took met quite a while the get my breath back as it felt as if my lungs closed down.

I will certainly use the site you've recommended and once again thank you for responding this fast. I do find that when I sit alone with my thoughts my shoulders pull up and I get very tense. The walking then takes the tension away and then I breath normally again and can fall asleep when I get back home.


Its not impossible that your hiatus hernia could affect your breathing Piet. Lots of people with copd have one and also reflux is common both with copd (1 in 3 ppl) and with HH. One kind of reflux is "silent reflux" where the acid can come up higher than the oesophagus to around your voice box and some can get as far as the top of the lungs and cause irritation which can affect breathing - speaking as one who knows! If you are eating late - and heavy meals - this could happen when sitting down later on.

This may not be relevant to you, but it might be useful to eat small evening meals at least 3 hours before bedtime and see if that makes any difference.

More good luck :)


I think the salt in the air by the sea is good for clearing the lungs of mucus so it should be beneficial.


Thank you Puff. I see a lot of people referring to mucus and coughing. I have none of that or will this develop at a later stage?


I think it's the luck of the draw. Although I have very severe emphysema it's quite rare that I cough and I don't often have a lot of mucus on my lungs. It seems to be a very individual illness. I do keep active though.


Great post from 02Trees,can't add to it,except to wish you luck in the future xx


Hi Pietba nice to meet you and welcome to the site. The good thing is you have stopped smoking so if you exercise, eat well and take your meds there is a very good chance you can slow down or even halt the progression of the disease for a long time. Your doctor is quite right - you can still live a long and healthy life and you will probably die of something else! You are very mild and there are many on here much more severe who still have quality of life.

2 things I will say. Please don't google indiscriminately as you will scare yourself silly. Stick to recognised sites like this one etc.

2nd Make sure you take your lungs seriously. If you think there is a problem don't hesitate to go back to the doctors, no being brave and ignoring it hoping it will go away. Any flare ups (exacerbations) can further damage your lungs so it's best to nip them in the bud straightaway.

This is a very good site with lots of helpful caring people very knowedgeable about lung disease so any questions just fire away. Ok? Take care x


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