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Recovery possible from COPD

Mehmet Oz, M.D., is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D., is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. Email questions to youdocsdaily@sharecare.com.

QUESTION: My aunt, who’s 78, has COPD. She smoked for most of her life (not anymore). Is it the end of the road for her?

— Lynda M., Arlington, Virginia

ANSWER: Not necessarily. In certain cases, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) can be arrested and even reversed.

Recently, German researchers found that aggressive pulmonary rehabilitation “is an effective and cost-effective therapeutic intervention that improves physical performance ability, shortness of breath and the quality of life in patients with COPD.”

Dr. Mike’s Cleveland Clinic defines COPD as a family of diseases ranging from emphysema to chronic bronchitis. Most cases are caused by smoking, but a growing number of cases are triggered by air pollution.

Sometimes, emphysema is caused by an alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, a genetic condition in which the lungs are no longer protected from the effects of an enzyme in the white blood cells that breaks down lung tissue.

COPD causes shortness of breath and mucus buildup in the lungs, which puts a huge strain on the heart. It’s the third most common cause of death in the U.S.

So, what’s the pulmonary rehabilitation therapy routine? First off, it requires that the patient stop smoking, as your aunt has done.

Then, the researchers say, it’s very effective to enroll in a three-week inpatient program that combines interval and endurance training, a healthy diet and oxygen therapy.

They also say it’s beneficial to enroll in an outpatient program. That’s done three times a week for six to 12 weeks. Your aunt’s doctor can recommend the best routine for her.

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