Breathe Easy: Lung Health Foundation’s Support for Canadians Living with COPD


© Courtesy of Lung Health Foundation

By Sandra Gregory

Currently, approximately two million Canadians are diagnosed and living with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). An estimated one million more may have the disease yet are undiagnosed and unaware they have it.

COPD is a chronic lung disease that includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Symptoms include difficulty breathing, coughing, mucus (sputum) production, and wheezing. COPD remains the fourth leading cause of death in Canada.

One of the goals of the Lung Health Foundation is to educate and create national awareness around COPD and provide support for those newly diagnosed or living with the disease—so that people living with COPD can continue to live full and healthy lives. In fact, one of the Lung Health Foundation’s key initiatives is to reduce COPD hospitalizations. One moderate exacerbation can increase the risk of hospitalization by 21 per cent.

In a newly launched campaign, the Lung Health Foundation hopes to raise awareness that experiencing shortness of breath can be a sign of COPD but is not the only determinant in receiving a diagnosis by a healthcare professional.

“Symptoms like shortness of breath and cough, particularly productive cough* in a person over 40 raise suspicion, in the context of an appropriate exposure history,” Dr. Samir Gupta, a respirologist with St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto and an adviser with the Lung Health Foundation, recently said.

“Smoking is the most common exposure in the western world but the most common exposure leading to COPD worldwide is pollution and biomass exposure. We should not forget that we live in a multicultural society and many of the patients whom we see who were not born and raised in this country and are lifelong non-smokers may still have COPD—due to biomass exposure in their native countries. Regardless, suspicion is only the first step. To reach a diagnosis, a pre and postbronchodilator spirometry (a simple breathing test) is absolutely essential.”

Being diagnosed with COPD can cause a person to feel overwhelmed, and the person newly diagnosed might feel very alone after receiving the news. The Lung Health Foundation works to help alleviate feelings of fear and isolation by offering support through a number of free services and programs, including virtual exercise and personalized COPD management and education. The COPD section of the Lung Health Foundation’s website provides a comprehensive overview of everything a person or caregiver may need to know about COPD, including symptoms, causes, diagnosis, treatments, live online exercise programs like Fitness for Breath, and more.

Fitness for Breath is a virtual exercise maintenance program and support group for people living with chronic lung conditions. The program is run in partnership between the Lung Health Foundation and the Abilities Centre with the goal of helping the person increase their knowledge of fundamental movement skills and show the health-related benefits of suitable exercise.

“Exercise is a crucial determinant of so many health outcomes including chronic disease outcomes but also mental health outcomes and overall quality of life. Accordingly, maintaining ability to exercise, including just to participate in normal daily activities with the least limitation possible, is a major goal of COPD management,” Dr. Gupta said.

Ron, a participant in Fitness for Breath, regularly attends virtual sessions and is encouraged by the benefits of the program.

“Your energy levels are pretty low and you can become isolated when you have COPD. The great thing about Fitness for Breath is that it provides me with regular physical and social activity that I quite look forward to. There is a sense of community. The benefit of this program is that it allows me to proactively take charge of my health and condition so I can remain active for the grandkids, get some of that control back, and manage my life,” he said.

So much of long-term patient care begins with the patient themselves. If you have COPD—or are helping a loved one with COPD—there are a number of resources available for you to protect and improve your quality of life. One-on-one support is available through the Lung Health Line. This free, confidential service is offered between 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. EST, Monday to Friday. To speak with a Certified Respiratory Educator (a healthcare professional with special training in COPD), call 1-888-344-LUNG (5864), email, or use the chat feature on the website.

The Lung Health Foundation is a national health charity dedicated to ending gaps in the prevention, diagnosis, and care of lung disease in Canada. The organization invests in the lung health of all Canadians by driving ground-breaking research and providing patients and their families with the crucial programs and supports they need today.

For more information, visit the website:

*A productive cough is when you cough up mucus (phlegm). Mucus can also drip down the back of the throat from the nose, sinuses, or ‘wet cough.’

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The Lung Health Foundation is dedicated to ending gaps in the prevention, diagnosis, and care of lung disease in Canada. We invest in the future by driving groundbreaking research, and we give patients and their families the programs and support they need today


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