COPD Is Third Leading Cause Of Death In The World

WORLD COPD Day (20th November) aims to raise awareness of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease by improving care throughout the world.

COPD is a chronic inflammatory lung disease which causes obstructed airflow from the lungs. It is a collective name for a variety of lung diseases, such as emphysema, chronic bronchitis and chronic obstructive airways disease.

Pulmonary rehab in COPD

Three million people have COPD, a disease characterised by airflow obstruction, causing breathlessness. Another two million go undiagnosed. It is not curable but people can manage their symptoms to improve quality of life. Pulmonary rehabilitation (PR), an evidence-based intervention, offers education and supervised exercise for people with COPD. However, uptake of pulmonary rehab is poor, sometimes due to fear of breathlessness.

Shortness of breath and difficult, laboured breathing (dyspnoea) is a common feature of COPD. Patients diagnosed with COPD will have weak inspiratory muscles.

IMT in pulmonary rehab

Inspiratory weakness is common in COPD but Inspiratory Muscle Training (IMT) strengthens the inspiratory muscles. A study in CHEST found IMT improved quality of life in patients with COPD, with improvements in:

  • Inspiratory muscle strength of 55% in patients with COPD
  • Breathing endurance of 86% in patients with COPD
  • Quality of life by 21% in patients with COPD
  • Dyspnoea by 36% in patients with COPD

The new GOLD 2020 Strategy Report for the diagnosis, management and prevention of COPD, suggests also incorporating IMT into PR.

A BMJ Open study assessed the acceptability of IMT as a treatment or precursor to PR in people with COPD. Using the POWERbreathe K3 IMT device, the study finds:

“This feasibility study of IMT in those who declined PR met its aims and was successful in showing that IMT could be easily implemented and IMT proved acceptable to participants.”

World COPD Day

Every year, GOLD chooses a theme to help raise awareness of COPD across the world. GOLD is the Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease. This year the theme for World COPD Day is “All Together to End COPD”. It’s likely that over 50 countries will carry out activities on this day. This makes it the most important COPD awareness event in the world.

Drug-Free IMT Reduces Use Of Asthma Inhalers

A recent report claims that switching to ‘green’ inhalers could reduce carbon emissions and cut costs. The study, led by researchers at the University of Cambridge, finds that metered-does inhalers contribute approximately 3.9% of the carbon footprint of the NHS. This is due to the hydrofluoroalkane (HFA) propellants found in these asthma inhalers. HFAs, like CFCs before them, are potent greenhouse gases. As a result, there is a call to switch to alternatives that have a lower carbon footprint.

Effective alternatives

The report suggests alternatives to metered-dose inhalers include dry powder inhalers and aqueous mist inhalers. However, these have a higher “up-front” price.

“It’s important to stress that patients shouldn’t stop using their usual treatments to reduce their carbon footprint. Instead we recommend patients review their condition and treatment at least annually with their healthcare professional and at this point discuss whether a more environmentally-friendly inhaler is available and appropriate in their situation.”

Dr Alexander Wilkinson, Consultant in Respiratory Medicine from East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust.

IMT reduces asthma inhaler use

In other research, Inspiratory Muscle Training (IMT) reduces the number of puffs on asthma inhalers, from 3.9 to 1.6 per day.

Reduction in use of asthma inhalers

Three separate studies into the use of inspiratory muscle training in patients with asthma observe an average 51% reduction in β2-agonist consumption1,2,3. A further study2 finds a decrease in corticosteroid use by asthma patients ~80%. Beta agonists relax muscles of the airways while corticosteroids reduce airway inflammation.

Breathing not only presents a limitation to athletes but also impacts people with respiratory illness, such as asthma. It is this recognition that began research into Inspiratory Muscle Training.

POWERbreathe Medic for asthma

One such IMT device, the POWERbreathe Medic, is available for prescription in the UK by the NHS. It is an evidence-based, drug-free treatment for patients with difficult or laboured breathing, especially those with asthma, COPD and heart failure.

POWERbreathe International Ltd. Managing Director Harry Brar says:

“Because POWERbreathe IMT is drug-free it can be used in combination with traditional asthma medication.

“By using POWERbreathe IMT to strengthen their breathing muscles, asthma patients will find that their breathing technique improves too, enabling them to inhale their medication past the back of the throat to reach the areas where it can be of most benefit.”

Developed by scientists at leading UK universities, POWERbreathe IMT is being used in clinical trials for use in clinical medicine and home healthcare.

POWERbreathe Inspiratory Muscle Training is a recent topic of interest at the European Respiratory Society’s International Congress, Madrid. Furthermore, the pre-conference workshop at Transform uses the POWERbreathe device to demonstrate IMT. Transform is the physiotherapy conference in Adelaide, led by Rik Gosselink, Professor of Rehabilitation Sciences KU Leuven, PT Respiratory Rehabilitation, University Hospital Leuven.

References

1.Weiner P, Azgad Y, Ganam R, Weiner M. Inspiratory muscle training in patients with bronchial asthma. Chest. 1992;102(5):1357-61.

2.Weiner P, Berar-Yanay N, Davidovich A, Magadle R, Weiner M. Specific inspiratory muscle training in patients with mild asthma with high consumption of inhaled beta(2)-agonists. Chest. 2000;117(3):722-7.

3. Weiner P, Magadle R, Massarwa F, Beckerman M, Berar-Yanay N. Influence of gender and inspiratory muscle training on the perception of dyspnea in patients with asthma. Chest. 2002;122(1):197-201.

Respiratory Physiotherapy using the Shaker by POWERbreathe

If you have a disease that results in sputum production, your physiotherapist will prescribe respiratory physiotherapy for you. Initially, this will involve the physio assessing you to identify the problem. As a result, management techniques and a treatment plan will be put in place. This will include airway clearance techniques, such as oscillating PEP. Different types of mucus clearance device use oscillating PEP, including the Shaker by POWERbreathe. Such devices combine the techniques of positive expiratory pressure (PEP) with oscillations. Your physio will refer to these as ‘oscillatory positive expiratory pressure’, or OPEP devices.
Respiratory Physiotherapy using the Shaker by POWERbreathe, by BreatheWellPhysio
Respiratory Physiotherapy using the Shaker by POWERbreathe, courtesy of Breathe Well Physio.

Shaker mucus clearance devices

The Shaker device will help to shift your bronchial secretions by combining PEP and oscillations. This combination will help you to expectorate the increasing amount of mucus you’re producing. By coughing out more mucus, you’re helping to prevent infections of your respiratory tract. It is also helpful if you have hay fever, which can make symptoms of asthma, such as coughing and wheezing, feel worse. Devices like the Shaker are easy-to-use without medical supervision, so you may decide to use it as an alternative, or additional, treatment to your prescribed medical respiratory physiotherapy. Although it works similarly to the older Acapella mucus clearance device, research reveals the Shaker to have better linearity at higher airflows. The same research also finds the pressure amplitude produced by the Shaker and Flutter mucus clearance device to be greater at low and high pressures. Finally, the same study shows a higher frequency of oscillation for the Shaker and Flutter at an intermediate pressure. This is all beneficial in helping you get the most from your therapy. The Shaker Classic, Shaker Deluxe and Shaker Medic Plus by POWERbreathe all mobilise mucus using oscillatory positive expiratory pressure (OPEP). An important point to note is that the Shaker devices are all gravity-dependent, as opposed to gravity-independent. This is worth bearing in mind as a 2018 study finds,
“the gravity-dependent devices were the ones to display close mechanical performances and produce optimal operational parameters at the simulated exhalation settings.” https://erj.ersjournals.com/content/52/suppl_62/OA5191
By contrast, this same study finds that the two gravity-independent OPEP devices, the Acapella Choice and Aerobika, “probably require higher expiratory pressure to reach theoretical therapeutic effectiveness.”

Therapeutic effects of the Shaker

If you have a condition such as chronic bronchitis, cystic fibrosis, bronchiectasis or asthma, then you’ll be only too aware of the excessive amount of mucus you produce. You may also notice a change in the type of mucus you’re producing. Because of this, it’s no surprise that you’ll be having difficulty clearing the mucus, even after coughing. But this is where using the Shaker by POWERbreathe for respiratory physiotherapy can help you. The Shaker uses a stainless-steel ball, weighing 30g, to help clear bronchial secretions. It does this by ‘shaking’ and causing a vibration, or percussion, in your chest. This happens as you exhale through the mouthpiece. As you breathe out through the device, the 30g steel ball provides a resistance. This causes the ball to move and shake and makes it more difficult for you to breathe out. All this shaking and vibration loosens the mucus. After breathing out through it a few times, you’ll find you’ll need to huff, or cough, to expel the mucus. You can see this being demonstrated in the video above. After a few uses, you’ll begin to work out for yourself how long and how frequently you’ll need to use your Shaker device, as everyone is different. To further enhance the therapeutic effect of your Shaker airway clearance device, its mouthpiece is designed to allow you to use it in a sitting or lying position.

Respiratory physiotherapy techniques

In respiratory physiotherapy, no one technique fits all. A therapist must take into consideration the strength of their patient, the thickness of their mucus and where it is located. However, as a patient, the price may be a criterion for selecting the most suitable device. In this 2013 study, assessment of the Flutter, Acapella and Shaker shows all three mechanical behaviours to be reliable. However, the Shaker is likely to be the most cost-effective. This type of respiratory physiotherapy aims to help you clear excessive phlegm, sputum, mucus and catarrh. Consequently, breathing effort reduces and exercise tolerance improves, helping you return to a better quality of life. Young children benefit from respiratory physiotherapy too, but they will require something with a lighter resistance to exhale against. If you have children, you’ll know that you’ll also need to make their therapy more fun. Blowing games using the Flowball by POWERbreathe can help them to clear secretions.

Precautions

You should always consult a doctor before starting any treatment if you’re concerned about any medical issue.

Smokers lungs work better after POWERbreathe IMT

This new study investigates the effects of inspiratory muscle training (IMT) on smokers and non-smokers. Researchers from Ondokuz Mayıs University and Gaziantep University in Turkey look into how IMT may affect pulmonary function and respiratory muscle strength in both these groups.

Pulmonary function & respiratory muscle strength

Pulmonary function indicates how well a person’s lungs are working to help them breathe. There are different tests that measure pulmonary function, otherwise known as lung function.

Respiratory muscle strength is an indication of how much pressure the breathing muscles generate when a person breathes in or out. Assessment of respiratory muscle strength involves measuring MIP or MEP. MIP or maximal inspiratory pressure reflects the strength of the inspiratory muscles, such as the diaphragm. Meanwhile MEP or maximal expiratory pressure reflects the strength of the expiratory muscles.

The IMT program

For the IMT program, subjects use the POWERbreathe Classic IMT device. The procedure consists of 30 x 2 dynamic inspiratory efforts with a 1-minute interval. They perform this for four weeks, seven days a week. The reason researchers chose this procedure is that it has been previously applied in healthy individuals.

Smokers group, non-smokers & placebo groups

Forty-two healthy males enrol in this randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled experimental design study. There are 16 subjects in the IMT smokers group (IMTS), 16 in the IMT non-smokers group (IMTN) with the final 10 subjects in the placebo group. This final group receive a sham ‘placebo’ treatment that will have no real effect.

By using a double-blind, placebo-controlled experimental design study, researchers can test out a therapy. The placebo treatment will feel just like the actual treatment, in this case, IMT. The reason for this is so that both the subject and the researcher’s expectations will not affect the outcome. Furthermore, a double-blind controlled study means that neither the researchers nor the subjects taking part know who will be receiving which treatment. This is vital in helping to avoid bias when measuring outcomes.

For the study, the experimental groups (IMTS and IMTN) perform POWERbreathe IMT at 50% of maximal inspiratory pressure. Researchers increase this each week. Meanwhile, in the placebo group, subjects perform POWERbreathe IMT at only 15% of MIP.

Improvements occur in smokers after IMT

Results of the study show significant improvements in respiratory muscle strength and pulmonary functions after the 4-week POWERbreathe IMT program. Even more promising is the fact that improvements in smokers are greater. Potentially, this is a result of a:

“greater influence of exercise on smokers’ lung microbiome in reversing the negative effects of smoking.”

For smokers, this means that their stronger inspiratory muscles will improve their ability to breathe in more air, for longer and with less fatigue. This will have a positive impact on daily life by helping them improve their ability to perform daily activities that may have been prohibitive before.

Natural Remedy for Hay Fever Cough

Hay fever may make symptoms of asthma, such as coughing and wheezing, feel worse. In fact, people with respiratory symptoms may experience continuous coughing as a result of their hay fever. This is likely to be due to the type of allergens affecting them. However, if a cough becomes unusually persistent, it is always best to report it to a doctor. But for those with asthma already taking medication, finding a natural remedy for hay fever induced coughing is of interest.

Natural Remedy for Hay Fever Induced Coughing

Coughing is the body’s natural way of trying to clear the lungs of fluid or mucus. Mucus production increases as a result of respiratory infections, such as a cold or the flu. However, mucus also increases when a person has an allergic reaction. In the case of hay fever, this will be to a type of pollen. It’s this allergic reaction that can cause persistent coughing, as the body tries to shift mucus, or phlegm, from the lungs.

Phlegm is produced by the respiratory system. When there is a large amount of phlegm, it can clog the airways. When phlegm is present in large amounts, the body naturally coughs to expel it. This resulting cough from clogging of the airways is particularly distressing in people with asthma.

Antihistamines and decongestants are traditionally taken to help relieve symptoms of allergies and hay fever. However, neither will get rid of phlegm on the chest. Furthermore, both are drugs. Additionally, an expectorant will help to make mucus thinner so it is easier to cough up, but that too is made from a type of drug.

People with asthma know how important it is to ensure that any additional medication they take is safe to use with their prescribed asthma treatment. It is helpful, therefore, to find a drug-free cough treatment that will help with mucus clearance. A drug-free cough treatment, by its nature, will have no drug interactions.

How to Clear Mucus

A natural remedy for hay fever cough is to use a mucus clearance device. The Shaker offers chesty cough relief by shaking loose the phlegm on the chest.

The weighted ball inside the Shaker rises as the user breathes out through the device. It then falls under its own weight. However, it does this so quickly that it feels like a vibration. It’s this vibrating action that mobilises lung secretions, breaking them down and making them thinner and less sticky. This makes it easier for the user to then expel the phlegm. A productive cough will result after using the Shaker; sometimes immediately and sometimes it may be an hour later. But the productive cough that the Shaker induces will help the user to eliminate the mucus. Ultimately, this brings much relief from chest congestion.

Shaker devices are ideal for ‘shaking’ loose mucus and catarrh that is associated with:

  • Chronic Bronchitis
  • Bronchiectasis
  • Emphysema
  • Asthma
  • Cystic Fibrosis

Shaker devices are also suitable for children to use, under parental guidance, as they are easy-to-use and effective. Please always speak to a medical professional first about medical issues or concerns and also read the precautions before using.

How to Keep Your Lungs Healthy

If you are finding breathing difficult because you have a lung condition, the European Lung Foundation believes exercise is helpful. In fact, you can discover how exercise helps to keep your lungs healthy in one of our previous blogs, How To Keep Your Lungs Healthy With Exercise. Additionally, by eating a healthy diet you can also help to keep your lungs healthy. If you find this topic to be of interest, then you may like to read another one of our blogs, Foods for Keeping your Lungs Healthy.

Can Multiple Sclerosis Affect Breathing

The automatic nervous system is part of the central nervous system. It controls vital functions, one of which is breathing, which we do without thinking. According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, it is unusual for MS to affect the nervous system and therefore breathing.

How Multiple Sclerosis affects breathing

However, patients with MS will experience muscle weakness. This affects all parts of the body, including the breathing muscles. These muscles, mainly the diaphragm and intercostals begin to lose their strength and stamina. As a result, breathing becomes more difficult and breathing in and out feels like hard work. Consequently, this adds to the feeling of fatigue, which is already a debilitating symptom of Multiple Sclerosis. Furthermore, the weakness of the breathing muscles may also impede speech and voice production.

How to improve breathing strength and stamina

A 2007 study shows that Inspiratory Muscle Training (IMT) significantly increases breathing muscle strength in people with MS. Additionally, IMT improves how well the lungs work in people with Multiple Sclerosis who have minimal to moderate disability.

The effects of Multiple Sclerosis on your body

Healthline, the fastest growing health information site, has created this medically reviewed infographic showing the effects of MS on the body.

The infographic itself provides a quick look at the effects of MS on the body. However, the rest of the article goes on to explain in more depth how this progressive neurodegenerative condition has an impact on the whole body.

Tips to Improve Breathing

You may be asking yourself why you need to improve your breathing. It’s a fair question. After all, at rest, you take 12 – 16 breaths per minute without even thinking about it. So just imagine what your breathing would be like if you were to start thinking about how you do it. Here you’ll find 5 top tips to improve breathing.

Begin by breathing more deeply. Don’t breathe from your chest but from your abdomen instead; your diaphragm. Your diaphragm is your main breathing muscle. It’s the one you really need to think about utilising when you breathe.

Unlike diaphragmatic breathing, chest breathing means you’ll only be taking in shallow breaths. Consequently, it doesn’t provide your body with the amount of oxygen it needs to function properly. As a result, chest breathing will take a toll on your body. Unfortunately, many of us will be chest breathers, as we lead busy lives and are constantly in a state of flight or fight. In addition to the lifestyle we lead, we may also chest breathe because of a poor posture. In fact, because more of us are working on screens – from mobiles to desktops – ‘screen-apnoea’ is fast becoming a new world condition.

Screen apnoea, poor posture – in fact, many things, can result in poor breathing habits. But there are ways to improve your breathing.

Tips to improve breathing

  1. Use Google’s new 1-minute Breathing Exercise tool. Search for ‘deep breathing’ or ‘breathing exercise(s)’ to get a 1-minute guided mindfulness exercise to control your breathing.
  2. Exercise your breathing muscles with Inspiratory Muscle Training.
  3. Learn to sing! It’ll help you to control your breathing.
  4. Improve your posture. Stand up straight and draw your shoulders up, back and down.
  5. Exercise to a level where speaking becomes difficult. This will improve your body’s ability to use oxygen.

Your lungs and exercise

It is well known that being active is good for you. If performed on a regular basis, it will improve your quality of life. In fact, regular exercise will also help you maintain a healthy heart and a healthy weight. Consequently, regular exercise helps to reduce the risk of serious illness. Furthermore, it helps to keep your lungs healthy too.

The European Respiratory Society has a fact sheet, that is free for all, about how exercise affects your lungs. It also explains how breathing is influenced by activity. Finally, it discusses the benefits of exercise for people with and without a lung condition. It is called Your Lungs and Exercise.

Are you a chest breather?

Place your left hand on your chest. Now place your right hand on your abdomen. Breathe in and see which hand rises more. If it’s your right hand, you’re breathing using your diaphragm. However, if your left-hand rises more, you are breathing from your chest.

If you’re breathing using your diaphragm, then you’re breathing as nature intended. However, if you’re a chest breather, then you’re not pulling the air into the base of your lungs. Consequently, this shallow breathing will affect your health. It creates tension in your body that can lead to all sorts of everyday problems.

Whether you’re breathing from the diaphragm or chest, you will still benefit from exercising your breathing muscles. Training these muscles with inspiratory muscle training will result in improvements such as breathing strength and stamina. In turn, it will reduce breathing fatigue and you’ll be able to do more, with less effort. So it’s definitely worth trying out our tips to improve breathing. Always check with a healthcare professional first, before starting any form of exercise.

New Asthma Treatment for Severe Asthma

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), are consulting again on the safety and efficacy of a new asthma treatment. The new treatment, bronchial thermoplasty, is likely to be offered to adults with severe asthma. The procedure involves applying thermal energy (heat) to the inside walls of the airways.

New asthma treatment

Bronchial thermoplasty will take place under sedation or general anaesthetic. Short pulses of radiofrequency energy are applied to the airway wall. Following that, patients will need to attend an additional two sessions, with 3-week intervals, to complete the procedure.

The aim of this new treatment is to reduce the smooth muscle mass lining the airways, decreasing their ability to constrict. Hopes are that by having this procedure, the severity and frequency of severe asthma attacks may decrease. NICE is currently in the process of considering the evidence for this treatment. Additionally, it’s listening to the views of specialist advisers with knowledge of the procedure.

Furthermore, to ensure safety, NICE is recommending that only a multidisciplinary team treat patients. In addition, they recommend that only specialist centres with on-site access to intensive care should carry out the procedure. Finally, they are proposing that only clinicians with experience of bronchial thermoplasty and managing severe asthma should perform the procedure.

As it stands, NICE believe there is adequate evidence to support the use of this new asthma treatment.

Severe asthma

In their consultation document, NICE say that in severe asthma, the lining of the airways becomes inflamed and narrow. Furthermore, this narrows the airways, making it harder for air to pass through. This makes it harder to breathe. And it is this that bronchial thermoplasty aims to tackle.

Complementary treatment for asthma

Research shows there to be an alternative, complimentary asthma treatment for opening up the airways and assist in easier breathing. This treatment is Inspiratory Muscle Training (IMT). Simply put, it is breathing muscle training, such as with the POWERbreathe IMT device. It too is clinically proven. Furthermore, it is drug-free.

The research reaches the conclusion that six-months of specific inspiratory muscle training improves inspiratory muscle strength and endurance. It also results in improvement in asthma symptoms, hospitalisations for asthma, visits to the emergency department, absence from school or work, and medication consumption in patients with asthma.

Alternative treatment for asthma – IMT

Inspiratory Muscle Training, such as with POWERbreathe IMT, is easy to use, straight out of the box. Because it is drug-free, there are only minimal precautions and contraindications that the Healthcare Professional needs to be aware of before prescribing IMT.

POWERbreathe IMT is an evidence-based, non-invasive asthma treatment. In fact, it is the amount of medical research behind the rigorous assessment that led to the POWERbreathe Medic being made available for prescription on the NHS. It offers people with asthma a clinically-proven method of reducing symptoms and putting them in control of their asthma.

Research shows that after only 3-weeks of IMT, asthma symptoms improve by up to 75%. Furthermore, patients with asthma experience improvement of symptoms, quality of life and a reduction in the consumption of medication of up to 79%.

In fact, three separate studies show an average 51% reduction in β2-agonist consumption (from 3.9 to 1.6 puffs per day) after IMT. One study also shows a decrease in corticosteroid use ~80%.

Finally, longer observations show that 6-months of IMT reduces absence from school/work (by ~95%) and use of healthcare resources (by ~75%).

What is World Asthma Day

Every year the Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA) organises World Asthma Day. The aim of this awareness day is to reduce asthma prevalence, morbidity and mortality in every corner of the globe. Their first awareness day was held in 1998. And so this year they are celebrating the 20th annual World Asthma Day. And every year they have a theme. The theme for 2018 is “Never too early, never too late. It’s always the right time to address airways disease.”

World Asthma Day 2018

This year’s theme asks both patients and healthcare providers to evaluate asthma symptoms, regardless of the time in that person’s life. In addition, they ask for actions to be taken to ensure a person’s asthma is controlled. For example, writing an Asthma Plan that contains all you need to help control your asthma, such as a list of asthma triggers, is a core part of asthma management.

Asthma triggers

There are many things that may trigger an asthma attack. In fact, anything that irritates the airways and sets off symptoms is considered an asthma trigger. Exercise is one such trigger. Yet evidence shows that people with asthma will benefit from exercise. In fact, there are many world-class athletes, including Paula Radcliffe MBE, that have asthma.

Asthma and exercise

As long as your asthma symptoms are under control then asthma shouldn’t stop you from enjoying these benefits of exercise:

  • Boosts the immune system, reducing the possibility of coughs and colds triggering symptoms
  • Increases bone and muscle strength
  • Improves overall health
  • Improves how well the lungs work, reducing the feeling of being breathless

Asthma treatment

The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute explain that asthma is a long-term disease that requires managing. And because there is no cure, the purpose of asthma treatment is to control the disease. This includes two types of medicines:

  1. Long-term control medicines – these help reduce airway inflammation and prevent asthma symptoms.
  2. Quick-relief, or ‘rescue’ medicines – these relieve asthma symptoms that have the potential to flare up.

However, there is also a drug-free therapy that is clinically proven to help reduce asthma symptoms – Inspiratory Muscle Training (IMT). Always speak to a medical professional about your medical issues or concerns first.

Natural asthma treatment without drugs

Inspiratory muscle training is a drug-free breathing training intervention for people with dyspnoea (difficult or laboured breathing). It’s not surprising, therefore, that clinical trials are unanimously supportive of IMT in the management of asthma.

In trials, patients with asthma experienced a reduction in their laboured breathing in as little as 3 weeks’ inspiratory muscle training. Furthermore, they felt improvements in their quality of life. In addition, longer-term observations following 3 weeks of IMT were also impressive:

  • Reduces absence from school/work (by ~95%)
  • Reduces the consumption of medication (by ~79%)
  • Symptoms improve by up to 75%

WHO asthma statistics

  • Asthma is a major noncommunicable disease
  • Approximately 235 million people suffer from asthma (2017) which is common among children
  • Medication can control asthma symptoms
  • Asthma management helps people with asthma to enjoy a quality of life
  • Many people have undiagnosed asthma

Asthma – how it affects breathing

Asthma is a long-term breathing condition that affects the airways. These are the small tubes that transport air in and out of the lungs. It’s these tubes that become inflamed when they come into contact with something that ‘irritates’ them. Consequently, the airways become narrower. And it’s for this reason that people with asthma feel breathless and wheezy. But these symptoms will vary in severity from person to person.

What causes asthma

In the general population, asthma affects approximately 235 million people. And here in the UK, one in every 12 adults is receiving treatment for it.

Asthma tends to run in families, so genetic predisposition is one risk factor. Another factor is environmental. For instance, exposure to particles that may irritate the airways or give rise to an allergic reaction. Such irritants may include tobacco smoke, house dust mites, pet dander, pollen or air pollution.

In addition to genetic predisposition and environmental irritants, there are also other triggers. These can include physical exercise and cold air. So, it’s no surprise to discover that exercise-induced asthma (EIA) is the most common medical issue among winter Olympic athletes. In fact, almost 50% of cross-country skiers in the 2018 Winter Olympics have EIA. But it isn’t only the cross-country skiers who’re suffering. Short-track speed skaters (43%), figure skaters (21%) and ice hockey player (15%) also suffer.

What is EIA

Exercise-induced asthma (EIA) is a condition where exercise itself becomes the trigger for an asthma event. Symptoms will surface only while exercising, or immediately following exercise. And the symptoms feel worst of all after exercise and then start to gradually improve. Treatment for EIA is the same, with long-term medicines that are taken daily. But there is also a natural treatment that is drug-free that can be used alongside medication. And that is Inspiratory Muscle Training (IMT).

Natural asthma treatment without drugs

Data exists from five randomised controlled trials that are unanimously supportive of the use of IMT with POWERbreathe in the management of asthma. In fact, the POWERbreathe Medic is clinically proven by a wealth of research, as well as, the first non-pharmacological treatment for respiratory disease and the only product of its kind on the drug tariff. It is a non-invasive treatment that is drug-free, with no side effects or drug interactions.

POWERbreathe IMT is not suitable for patients with certain conditions so please first consult your specialist respiratory health doctor.

How asthma affects exercise

Breathlessness is a common feature of exercise. Shortness of breath, coughing and wheezing are also symptoms of asthma. So, imagine being an Olympic athlete performing high-intensity training above your lactate threshold. Then imagine being a winter Olympic athlete, with asthma. Breathing moves out of its comfort zone and increases steeply. And with the breathing muscles weakening and tiring, breathing feels harder still. It would be beneficial therefore to improve the state of the inspiratory muscles, mainly the diaphragm and intercostal.

It is possible to exercise specifically the inspiratory muscles with an inspiratory muscle training (IMT) device, such as POWERbreathe IMT. Such a device provides the inspiratory muscles with a resistance to breathe in against. This resistance training makes the inspiratory muscles work harder, improving breathing strength and stamina and reducing breathing fatigue.

What exercise helps asthma

Any form of exercise is good for you and will help keep heart and lungs healthy. In fact, many well-known, world-class athletes have this condition, such as runner Paula Radcliffe and cyclist Laura Trott.

If your symptoms are well managed, and your GP gives the go-ahead, then there’s no reason to limit your choice of exercise.

Practical tips for exercising with asthma

  • Warm-up first, including an inspiratory muscle warm-up with an IMT device
  • Make sure you have your inhaler with you
  • Ensure people around you know that you have asthma
  • If you feel your symptoms coming on during exercise, take your reliever inhaler and wait until symptoms subside