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Spring 2004

Rehab Prescribed for Chronic Lung Disease

Program helps increase physical activity and improve quality of life

Sufferers of emphysema, chronic bronchitis, asthma, and other conditions that affect the lungs and breathing can increase their physical activity and quality of life through pulmonary rehabilitation, says Ammar Sakkour, M.D., director of the UCLA Pulmonary Fitness and Rehabilitation Program that combines education and exercise in an intensive sixweek, twice-weekly program.

“Individuals who experience shortness of breath due to declining lung function often limit their physical activity to compensate, frequently without realizing that they are doing so,” Dr. Sakkour says. Limited activity causes a decline in muscular conditioning and, since weak muscles are less energyefficient, more strain is put on the lungs to supply oxygen and ventilate away carbon dioxide and other wastes. While pulmonary rehabilitation doesn’t increase lung function in those suffering from shortness of breath, it can help make the muscles more efficient so patients can do more with the lung capacity they do have.

“Our program carefully guides patients back to a higher level of activity. Patients can work strenuously in the program because we monitor their hearts and breathing. At the end of the program, they have a better idea of their true limitations,” Dr. Sakkour notes.

UCLA’s pulmonary rehabilitation program includes strength and cardiovascular exercises, as well as education sessions about lung hygiene, breathing techniques, use of inhalers and other medications, strategies for travel, and coping with medical emergencies. The program also functions as a kind of support group, helping patients overcome their fears. “Anxiety plays a significant role in patients with lung disease,” he says. “Patients who understand their condition better are less anxious and have better results.”

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