How do i heal my lungs

Berlin : Ventilate smokers' lungs

In what lung diseases is

need rehabilitation?

Most often, those affected go into rehab because of a smoker's lung (doctors call it chronic obstructive pulmonary disease - COPD) at an advanced stage - especially when the shortness of breath becomes noticeable. Asthmatics, those healed after severe pneumonia and recently operated patients can also undergo inpatient rehab. But that happens too seldom, at least say rehabilitation doctors. The benefit of such aftercare is underestimated by patients and health insurance companies. “We observe a very large gap between the number of sick people and the patients who apply for a cure,” says Susanne Pelzer, senior physician at the rehabilitation clinic in Sommerfeld. The number of cases proves her right: while around 7,500 COPD patients are treated annually in 45 Berlin clinics alone, not even 170 of them end up for follow-up treatment in the two rehabilitation facilities specializing in lung patients (see box on the left).

What is a smoker's lung?

Smokers destroy their lungs with every single puff. If those affected inhale the blue haze, this leads to a smoker's lung in one of two cases. The most common consequence of smoke is chronic inflammation of the airways (chronic bronchitis) and defective alveoli (pulmonary emphysema). The valve function of the cavities, which are so important for the metabolism, is destroyed by the toxins. As a result, those affected can no longer fully exhale stale air. Due to the continuous breathing, a dangerous overpressure slowly builds up in the exchange cells. In the worst case, the distended alveoli will tear - a medical emergency.

Why do patients realize only late

that they have a smoker's lung?

“Man is by nature a flight animal. A lung can perform forty times as much in a very short time, for example to suddenly run away from great danger, ”says Torsten Bauer, chief physician at the Heckeshorn Lung Clinic at the Helios Clinic Emil von Behring. Therefore, people did not notice for years that their lung capacity was decreasing. Because in everyday life without a lot of exercise, the lungs are challenged a maximum of ten times. Two thirds of the lungs were often left unused. Only in later stages did those affected become breathless even with minor exertions - such as climbing stairs. In the advanced stage there is shortness of breath and persistent shortness of breath. Doctors also call this condition stenotic breathing. “It feels like breathing through a straw,” says the pulmonologist Bauer.

How dangerous is smoking?

Every second smoker dies of their nicotine addiction, be it from heart attack, COPD or lung cancer. Nationwide, over five million Germans suffer from COPD. Most of the people affected are older than 45 years. Due to the reduced performance of the lungs, other organs are not adequately supplied with oxygen. Cardiovascular weakness and kidney failure can result. Worldwide, experts from the World Health Organization rate COPD as one of the most deadly diseases. It is currently in fourth place in the official ranking after heart attacks, strokes and pneumonia. This lung disease is even expected to move up to third place by 2030.

Why do COPD patients need one

Rehabilitation treatment?

"There is no way to heal a smoker's lung," says pulmonologist Torsten Bauer. The chances of being able to breathe deeply again depend on your personal attitude towards life and the stage of COPD. There are four stages in total: from mild to severe COPD. Although a cure is not possible, regular exercise and lung rehabilitation can help those affected to reduce persistent shortness of breath and thus breathe more easily. If those affected do lung training, their condition deteriorates much more slowly.

What happens during pulmonary rehabilitation?

Doctors examine each patient on the first day in order to create individual therapy plans and determine their success after rehabilitation. The most important test: Patients walk on the treadmill for six minutes while pulmonologists determine the distance covered and analyze the blood gas values. Doctors also use the so-called Dexa measurement to calculate the body's muscle mass. This is a procedure in which the bone and fat percentage are first determined. Subtracted from the body weight, what remains is the muscle mass. Thereafter, the medical professionals determine what stage of the disease the patients are in, how much exercise they need, and whether a special diet is required. "There is only as much program as the patient can tolerate," says senior rehabilitation doctor Pelzer. On average, there can be four to ten exercise units per day.

So that patients can breathe better again, they need a lot of exercise, in the sports room of the rehabilitation clinic, in the forest and in the water. "The better the muscles are trained, the less oxygen they need," says Sana rehab doctor Pelzer. The aim of pulmonary rehabilitation should always be to stabilize the lung function in order to improve living conditions in everyday life. Endurance sports are particularly important in order to slowly get the muscles back into shape. "Those affected should only do as much as they can really tolerate." Nordic walking and muscle building in the fitness room are among the most important lung sports. Water sports, on the other hand, are not necessarily the best type of exercise in the advanced stages of COPD. If a person dips into the water up to their head, that alone consumes 75 watts. For a COPD patient, this is as exhausting as climbing stairs quickly. Matthias Lehmphul

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