Marking World Health Day (April 7), COPD Support Ireland hosts lifestyle webinar for people with COPD

Marking World Health Day, COPD Support Ireland will host a free webinar, “Living Your Best Life with COPD”, for people with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, or COPD, on Friday April 7.

The webinar aims to offer lots of practical tips on the lifestyle changes people with COPD can make to enhance their quality of life. It will feature a number of contributions on different aspects of living with COPD, including maintaining mental fitness, making food enjoyable, and rediscovering the benefits of outdoor activity. Speakers include well-known psychologist Dr Eddie Murphy, award-winning landscape gardener, David Shortall, and chef, author and TV presenter, Adrian Martin, while the webinar will be introduced by Miss Ireland, Dr Ivanna McMahon. Attendees will also be signposted to resources in their communities, such as support groups, hospital pulmonary rehabilitation programmes, Living Well self-management support programmes, the COPD & Me exercise programme, and the SingStrong programme for better lung health.

Perhaps more well-known as bronchitis or emphysema, there are an estimated 380,000 people living with COPD in Ireland. Its key symptoms are ongoing breathlessness and a persistent cough, with or without phlegm. While tobacco is the main cause, other risk factors include exposure to second-hand smoke, inhalation of dusts, chemicals and fumes, living with an existing condition such as chronic asthma, and having a family history of certain lung-related illnesses.

Interestingly, a recent survey undertaken by Behaviour & Attitudes on behalf of COPD Support Ireland, found that while seven in ten (68%) people have heard of COPD, almost nine in ten (88%) know little or nothing about it. One third (35%) were unable to identify any symptoms associated with the condition. For the most part, awareness was higher among older age groups and people from less well-off backgrounds, while women tended to be more informed than men.

The “Living Your Best Life with COPD” webinar takes place on Good Friday, Friday April 7, from 12 midday to 1.30pm and is completely free of charge. To register, or for more information on living with COPD, visit or call the COPD AdviceLine on Freefone 1800 832 146 to make an appointment to speak to a COPD specialist nurse or physiotherapist.

Meaning to Life
For Dr Eddie Murphy, clinical psychologist, and RTÉ Operation Transformation expert, the key to overcoming the mental health challenges that can arise with a COPD diagnosis is to take a step back and reflect:
“We know that a diagnosis of COPD can leave a person dealing not only with the physical symptoms but with effects on their mental health too. However, in the same way that there are healthy lifestyle changes we can undertake to better cope with the challenges of COPD, equally there are things we can do to adjust how we respond to those thoughts we may be experiencing. What I hope to look at in my talk is how we can still find fulfilment in life, how we can manage the big five emotions of happiness, sadness, disgust, fear and anger, and how we can implement psychological tools to add quality to our lives and get beyond stress. My hope is that people will go away with a newly-found meaning and purpose to life, and practical steps that they can take to really make a difference in living their best lives with COPD.”

Life’s Possibilities
For Joan Johnston, General Manager, COPD Support Ireland, while a COPD diagnosis may leave people feeling cut off from the world, there is hope:
“We know that for people with COPD, the world around them can very suddenly shrink and people can feel they have to withdraw from the community. People can be reliant on oxygen and have increasing difficulty with their mobility due to breathlessness. They may have less energy to cook and instead reach for convenience foods or skip meals entirely. They may feel unable to cope and experience anxiety and depression. If you have COPD and are worried that you can’t engage in physical activity, our gardening expert will show just how easy, enjoyable and good for your health, getting outdoors can be. If you have lost your passion for cooking, we will have recipe tips that will not only have you licking your lips but give your body the nutrition it needs to make you stronger. If you are feeling a little low, our mental health expert will outline the practical steps you can take to adjust your mindset to life’s possibilities. With this webinar, the aim is to offer simple lifestyle changes for people to adopt and to show that you can still have a very good life with COPD.”

Top Gardening Tips for Living Your Best Life with COPD
David Shortall, award-winning landscape gardener

  1. Salt of the Earth. Epsom salts, available from any chemist, contain magnesium which is essential for plant growth. Magnesium also releases other nutrients and minerals that are otherwise locked into soil particles. Potted and container plants benefit most from this. Dilute some salts in tepid water in a watering can and get your workout as you improve the health of your plants. If you have a hedge or mature shrub that you think needs some TLC, scatter some crystals of Epsom salts around the base. Feeding your plants with Epsom salts, both inside and outside, is a cheap and effective way to improve their health.
  2. Come up smelling of roses! Plants such as roses can suffer from pests such as greenfly, and fungal diseases such as black spot, mildew and rust. However, you can easily make up your own organic pest and disease control. Simply, take 1 teaspoon of washing-up liquid, 1 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda and mix in a pint (500ml approx.) of water. Put into a well washed-out spray bottle, like one used for a surface cleaner, and spray your roses on a regular basis throughout the growing season. Alternatively, water with milk added (4:1 parts) will be effective in the control of fungal diseases.
  3. Take a walk on the wild side. Why not add a little artistic flair to your lawnmowing and introduce wild flowers and nature into your garden? Instead of cutting the entire lawn, cut around the edges and mow a gentle curved pathway through the middle. Then, let the rest of it grow. You will be surprised how many wild flowers will come up, adding colour and interest to your outdoor space. It will give you an excuse to go out and check what’s new every single day!
  4. Get down in the weeds. Nobody likes weeding but here are a few ideas to make life as painless as possible. Firstly, you could cover the ground in bark mulch – just lay down some cardboard and then spread bark on top, which will significantly reduce the number of weeds coming up. Secondly, using household vinegar will burn weeds on your patio, driveway or footpath cracks. Spray or squirt liberally over the weeds and watch them disappear! Thirdly, if mulch or vinegar isn’t suitable for the job at hand, simply get stuck in with a hand trowel and root out the remaining weeds. It’s a good workout and you’ll get plenty of fresh air. Finally, if the above is too arduous, ask yourself is it a weed or is it a wildflower? Maybe leave a patch and see the flowers grow!
  5. Food for thought! Make your own smelly but very effective plant food. When you pull weeds, collect them and put them in to a bucket. Cover the weeds with a rock and fill the bucket with water. Leave the bucket for a couple of weeks and then use the smelly solution mixed with water at a rate of 1 part to 10 parts’ water. It’s an excellent plant food with all the nutrients the weeds have “stolen” from your precious plants. Time those weeds gave back for a change!


Image credit: Shane O’Neill, Coalesce