British Lung Foundation
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COPD beginner

I am 78 and after smoking for over 50 years and stopping 11 years ago have just been told I have COPD. My peak flow is 250 and I don't take any medication. I have a number of questions I would like to ask members of the forum:

1. I see mentions of percentages such as 80%, 90% - to what do these relate?

2. COPD I am pleased to say hardly affects my normal life so I effectively ignore it. However, if I took medication,inhalers which I know I could have, would that slow down the disease progress?

3. Is there any thing other than stopping smoking, avoiding bad atmospheres and normal exercises that would slow down the progress? Lung exercises?

4. Which is best for obtaining a 'start' point' to monitor the progress, CT or MRI scan? To be repeated yearly.

5. If someone starts at a low level and is otherwise healthy, how long before you become so breathless you need to sit down whilst walking? (I know it is difficult to generalise).

6. Is there a level at which you could apply for DLA or is it 'means tested'?

Sorry to have so many questions but it is all new to me and doctors are so busy nowadays.

11 Replies


The percentage figures you relate are probably oxygen levels.

If you have condition under control then medication may not be required at this time. Keep in touch with your GP if your symptoms worsen. You may want to request a Ventolin inhaler for any sudden shortness of breath,

Stopping smoking, avoiding under people's second hand smoke and any other toxic fumes or smoke will slow the progression of the condition.

A sensible diet and gentle exercise will give you more control over your breathing.

Breathlessness is not only related to COPD but is also age related, taking into account of you general health it could be some time before it becomes a burden.

The best suited test and monitoring is by spirometer.

With regards DLA/PIP you are above the age limit, the only benefit is Attendance Allowance


I think the percentage levels are lung function tests-mine is 90%.

If your oxygen sats ( think sats means saturation) are under 90 or even 93 I was told , then you need oxygen.

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Stone has covered all your questions so would just like to say welcome to the site.


Yep those percentages more likely to be spirometer lung unction test results. What caused it to be diagnosed, what symptoms do you have?

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Whilst traveling by coach on a DIY tour of Inner Mongolia with 20 local Chinese for a week recently I noticed one person near me had a cold. I was the only UK person and I caught the cold. It floored me probably because my body had never met that strain. I had to leave the tour and fly back to my base city for the remainder of the month in China. Most other passengers got the cold but their experience was normal. Later, in the UK my wife said my lips were blue one day so I had a spirometer test.

Symptoms - I cough about once or sometimes twice an hour during the day only. I bring up 1/2 teaspoonful of white frothy liquid. This started on return to the UK from a DIY tour of Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore after China where it was very very hot. I notice I am breathing quicker rather than get breathless if I walk fast. Other than that I am healthy, taking only advisory Simvastatin.

Any advice on the HCT v MRI scans? I was hoping to be able to track the deterioration progress. I would like to know if I can look forward to years or months of activity before I can no longer lug cases about when traveling.


Well Makem, I am 73 years of age. it seems to appear that you have done the right thing by stopping smoking, but the damage had already taken place after smoking for 50 years. Now those of us that did smoke for many years may or may not get COPD, it can onl;y be diagnosed by chest xrays, untrasound, CT and/MRI scans. With our National Health Service suffering these days, it does take time to search for the answers any of us are looking for.

Many years ago if we had been told or even learned about COPD, then perhaps we could have missed the deadly COPD crashing into our lungs. So now we have to learn how to live and manage the condition.

At present I myseld am going thru a six weeks course Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program as my breathing became exceedingly bad and was hospitalised with an infection, this continued into Jan 2017 with yet no clear-up, and now again in this Feb month I have a 3rd infection and back on the antibiotics.

As my doctor told me that we have to take into consideration the costs behing having a CT and MRI scans is high, but like I also said back, that there is a need for sputum tests to be carrid out in order to find the correct bacterial or viral infection in order for the correct treatment to be given and thereby save on any unncesessary CT and/or MRI scans.

I would think that you need to discuss any of your issues with your GP and ask him or her to refer you to a Chest Clinic in order for yolu to have the time to talk to a consultant as more time could be given there rather than the 10 mins for one single health complaint that our GP's can give us right now.

I wish you well my friend and take good care of yourself.


Hi Makem, regarding your point No 5. I was diagnosed with Emphysema in 1989, after some 50 years of smoking.

I can still walk, at a much slower pace of course, without having a need to rest.

Good Luck.


..Hmm - we're getting some very encouraging replies today - keep it up folks ! ...


...Blimey ! - your doing well with those figures at your age ! and from what you tell us , I know many people far worse - given the facts you've presented - it only goes to show WE ARE ALL DIFFERENT ! ! - an " Elderly " neighbour of mine, who is still smoking at 83, ok, not good , but , out of sheer curiosity went to a new Doctor, previous one had retired, to have a " General Check- Up , AFTER the examination the Doctor asked him = " DO YOU SMOKE " ? - the chap could hardly believe what question he was being asked !! - so he asked the Doctor , after admitting he "Liked a puff or two, a day " ,since he was about 20, why he had asked that particular question - and the Doctor just casually replied - Hmm - just wondered - its a standard question these days - your lungs seem to be clear as a bell " ...and that was that ! ... NEEDLES TO SAY MY NEIGHBOUR VERTUALLY DANCED OUT OF THE SURGERY ! - Funny old life aint it !!- Good luck - I don't think you have much to worry about !..- get your dancing shoes on also ! ..


Thanks all for the help and advice.

I have been referred to a COPD clinic and attend on Monday. It is a nurse lead interview of some 30 minutes. I don't at this stage know if they do any tests but I would like to get sufficient data forthe Bode Index. I will also ask their opinion on the merits of HCT and MRI. Our local private hospital charge £500 for a chest CT scan and report back to the referring GP. I am not sure if the GP will charge too.

We have a lot of travel plans which have been held up with my wife having a heart attack followed by breast cancer. She has to have another two stents but by April we should be able to get on the move again taking a Chinese relative to tour Holland, Belgium, France and South of the UK. Then we are traveling on our own :-D


Well, I attended the clinic which is now down to one nurse. Apparently in my situation she can only give advice on how to stay out of hospital and suggested i should return when I am ill!

I was rather disappointed, having expected to be shown how to do helpful exercises and perhaps take part in meetings with other sufferers. Perhaps I am not advanced enough to qualify.

I persuaded her to do a spirometer test which proved a better result than the one in June 16. I will also do a 6 minute walk test although she said I would breeze it. I walked 463 metres in 6 minutes yesterday as a self test and didn't get out of breath. The nurse thought a CT scan would be best but said it would probably show nothing.

So, it would seem I should just get on with life and effectively ignore the diagnosis except for avoiding those situations which could make it worse.

I thank you all for your input and wish you well.

PS. How did you know I dance vittorio? ;-)


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