Monday, March 5, 2018

Breathing, Moving, Inhaling

Image result for copd breathing test
Staying in Breathing Shape
I'm a professional genealogist.  For genealogists' Salt Lake City visits are a must. But at over 4000 feet above sea level, for those with compromised health, Salt lake City require advanced health preparations (AHP).  With the same rigor that my friends prepare for marathons, triathlons, or their active survivor-style trips, I prepare for anything over 2000 feet above sea level. (Really 200 feet above seal level, but I fear you will think I am exaggerating. I'm not)!

Cities nestled in high altitudes have major impacts on my already compromised health. What are my compromised health issues, you ask?  Well there are only really four:

  1. lungs - pulmonary hypertension, and chronic pulmonary embolisms. Need I say more.  
  2. heart - who needs a right atrium? I have an enlarged heart!  Bigger is better right? Not!!!!  
  3. oxygen - I used to say that that breathing is overrated.  I haven't had a good breath since 1992.  Literally, 1992 was the last time I remember having a healthy oxygen saturation. That was my pre-COPD diagnosis. In 1993, I was working in Switzerland and decided to take a long weekend holiday to ski the Alps in St. Moritz - Club Med (does this resort still exist)? This was my first known presentation of "organ betrayal."  I had to request a ride in the snowcat down the mountain alongside the blue run. The full story is rather funny, but only because no one I mowed down on a "fainty" tumble down the top of the run was injured. 
  4. blood - I have a blood clotting autoimmune disease.  This disease keeps me sober, because the intoxicated rarely can pronounce "antiphospholipid antibody syndrome." This is the root of my compromised health. 
Besides my compromised lungs, heart, oxygen and blood, I'm quite healthy.  I have to stay in "breathing" shape.  I know the healthy persons in my life always want to be in "fighting shape," but for me, it's breathing shape.  Now believe me when I tell you that breathing shape is not that great. I usually need an Uber, shuttle or taxi in Salt Lake City for anything over a block. No, I'm not exaggerating.  I can manage to cross a street.  That's it! I struggle to cross the street from the hotel to the conference center. I think my brother has longer fishing lines than my walk across the street. But, before I can get to either door, I have to stop and catch my breath, sometimes twice door to door, and that does not include the wait required at the pedestrian crosswalk .  But for me that's breathing shape, especially for Salt Lake City.  Hubby says if I find myself being disappointed a lot, I need to lower my expectations.  I've become very "cool" with that!

So let me share with you how I stay in Breathing Shape. 

When first diagnosed my doctors directed me to just rest. Exercise was out, "just try to accept the life you have," they said.   My thought was "is that even considered living."  After a 28 day stay in the hospital, within six months I enrolled in a chair yoga class.  I became active with the Lung Association and was a planner for the local gala fundraiser (five years of this).  I could do that from my bed.  I could still talk you know. Yes, I was short winded, but my mouth is strong willed. 
Visit: Yoga 8 Poses
I advanced out of chair yoga to senior yoga (Silver Sneakers).  Ok...they did have their share of chairs too, so I wasn't alone. I was forty-five and I would catch the seniors sneaking that pathetic glance at me, as they nodded to each other. First rule: discard the past.  There would be no more skiing the slopes. I probably can no longer make it to the ski chair, let alone breath that mountain air without fainting and falling out of the chair.  So, I just exercised from my yoga chair next to that eighty-nine year old woman.  I did graduate out of the yoga chair to the pregnancy yoga class.  Don't laugh! Those mothers-to-be get soothing music and modified yoga positions. And it emphasized breathing.  Something I really needed to work on.  

I now walk around the block everyday, rain or shine, heat or cold, wind or humidity. Sometimes it takes me twelve minutes to walk around the block;  sometimes it takes me twenty-four. Sometimes, my route is charted for the flattest route, sometimes - ok, rarely, I try to make it up the slightest of inclines without having to stop in front of every house for my dog to mark a tree. This is not a rigorous walk, this is a friendly route.  I am the only person in the neighborhood that can name every person on the block and tell you how many children they have.  The key is to build up stamina. 

Eat right.  
I'm NOT even going to give you my speech.  But your diet weighs in on your inflammation, pain, and comfort level of the day. Why have a bad day? We already struggle to breath. And in Salt Lake City, your food choices need to be intentionally good.  I probably under eat just a bit. Never hungry, but never full.  "Full" hurts when you are struggling to breathe.  

The lower my weight, the better I feel.  Let me change that, I feel optimum when my weight is in the lower half of the recommended Body Mass Index (BMI)  Again, don't get too excited, I just want to cross a street. For those with compromised health, we must do whatever it takes to be at the Breathing, Moving, Inhaling (BMI) optimal level. 

Last Tip
Penn State News: Mindfulness
Oh and my last tip to you.  Smile.  Just smile with every exhale.  With a smile, you can make it to the other side of the street, even in Salt Lake City. 

Kathleen Brandt, Keynote Speaker
"Health is Wealth"

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