Health: Preventing an illness that takes your breath away

Breathe Easy group.
Breathe Easy group.
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As Clinical Chief Officer for NHS Leeds South and East Clinical Commissioning Group, one of my roles is to make sure we are focusing on doing what we can to help people with long term health conditions.

A condition we know affects large numbers of people in some parts of Leeds is chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which is the name for a collection of lung diseases including chronic bronchitis, emphysema and chronic obstructive airways disease.

COPD does not usually affect people until after the age of 35. It is thought there are over 3m people living with the disease in the UK, of which only about 900,000 have been diagnosed.

If you smoke, the single most important treatment for COPD is to stop!

Giving up will halt the ongoing damage to your airways caused by cigarette smoke. We also know that the sooner people who have breathing problems such as COPD are diagnosed the more successfully they can be treated and I would encourage anybody who has had a cough for more than 3 weeks to visit their GP as soon as possible.

What are the symptoms of COPD?

Increasing breathlessness when exercising or moving around

A persistent cough with phlegm that never seems to go away

Frequent chest infections, particularly in winter


How can I reduce my chances of getting COPD?

When you have a lung condition, it is important to be as active as you can as this helps with breathlessness by improving your muscle strength and lung fitness. This makes it easier for you to carry out everyday activities.

When you have a lung condition, it is important to eat well to prevent infections and keep your lungs healthy. It is also essential to make sure you are the correct weight because being overweight will make it harder for you to breathe and move around.

What is being done in Leeds to help?

A promotional campaign is being developed to increase awareness of the symptoms of COPD and where people should go if they are worried.

We are investing in new and innovative ways of providing stop smoking support to local people and aiming to increase the amount of people using them.

We are making sure that all health professionals involved in caring for people with COPD have access to the right equipment and are able to interpret the results.

If you need help to stop smoking contact the Leeds NHS Stop Smoking Service which is free to anyone and runs clinics across the city providing group, one-to-one or drop-in support sessions. Call 0800 169 4219 for more information.

For more details and background on COPD, visit or The British Lung foundation at

The Breathe Easy group meet every Tuesday at St Richards Church in Seacroft where they hold a gentle exercise session for people with COPD. For further details about joining, call Tony on 01132936588.

PIC: Simon Hulme

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