Stop smoking for new lease on life

With World COPD Day on November 14, the Asthma Foundation wants smokers and ex-smokers with breathing difficulties to talk to their GP, or contact their nearest asthma society.

"I was 15 when I started - my uncle sent my dad home boxes of cigarettes from the war and I used to flog the odd one and smoke in the shed."

That was the beginning of 44 years of heavy smoking, generally about 30-35 cigarettes a day, says George Anderson.

George has COPD or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. COPD, which is chronic bronchitis and emphysema, affects hundreds of thousands of Kiwis, yet most people have never heard the term COPD.

COPD is a major cause of ill health worldwide, disability and death that develops as a result of tobacco smoking.

In 1994, George finally gave up. "My wife was in Auckland at an indoor bowls tournament when I saw an ad on Nicobrevin and thought it would be a good idea to try to give up while she was away."

It cost George $168 for 40 tablets. He took one Friday, one Saturday and then stopped. George went from a heavy smoker to nothing in 48 hours.

What amuses George is that his wife didn't notice for two to three days - then she twigged. She was pretty happy but didn't believe it.

"I had tried to knock off before, had tried to go cold turkey and it didn't work - the support of the tablets was what I needed to stop," said George.

George noticed some immediate benefits from not smoking. He enjoyed the taste of his food more and he didn't wake up in the morning with a rotten taste in his mouth.

In 2007, George started to notice shortness of breath. He went to his GP who told him he had emphysema, or COPD. George is one of the estimated 200,000 New Zealanders affected by COPD, 85 per cent of them former smokers.

On his doctor's advice, George went to COPD classes and joined the gym, and he's been going to the gym, where possible, five days a week since. This has allowed George to take control of his COPD and have a good quality of life.

George is now one of the "old timers" at the COPD classes. Those with respiratory issues usually go twice a week for six weeks. Once at the classes they recommend joining the gym through the green prescription programme.

As an "old timer", George comes to tell the new people what going to the classes and gym has done for him and what the classes can do for them if they continue.

In 2006, COPD was responsible for an estimated 9250 hospital discharges, 88,800 bed-days (1.5 per cent of all bed-days) and $192 million in direct health costs in New Zealand.

Another benefit of taking control of his COPD is that in November last year George had a hip replacement and in October he had two separate operations to take a cataract off each eye.

This year's World COPD Day theme is "It's not too late" to improve your respiratory health at any stage.

- Hamilton News

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