Living an active life has helped me take control of COPD

Fernando Núñez was only 38 when he was diagnosed with alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency 24 years ago. This inherited condition increases the risk of lung and liver disease and in particular, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Despite showing symptoms, it wasn’t until years later that he was diagnosed with COPD and asthma.

Fernando’s hometown of Asturias, northwest Spain

“I’d first gone to see my doctor as I was experiencing breathlessness and I was much more tired than usual, I could hardly work. At that time, I was smoking three packs of tobacco a day, but you’re never aware of what can happen to you, until it does.”

Taking positive steps

For Fernando, optimism and the desire to overcome the challenges he’s faced have been key. Although it is an evolving disease and he has experienced difficult times, he has managed to control it and face it with great courage. As a result, he’s noticed a great improvement since he was first diagnosed.

"At the beginning it was not easy, it took me a long time to fully understand COPD. The first thing I did was to stop smoking, but I knew that was only the first step. I also knew it was important to take my medication. By doing so, I’ve kept the condition under control and it’s progressed slowly.”

Two years ago, Fernando started respiratory physiotherapy twice a week. By learning breathing techniques, massage and taking part in physical exercise, he’s seen real improvements in his condition. “The change I’ve seen has been really positive. When I first started, I could only walk 250 metres on the treadmill in six minutes, now I’ve almost doubled that.”

Currently there is no cure for COPD, however with the right treatment and support the condition can be controlled. Fernando, now 52, is still leading an active life. “Thinking about that amazes me, because at the beginning it was almost impossible, I became breathless with even minimal effort.”

Giving visibility to the disease

Fernando is now vice president of the Asma Asturias Association (ASMA ASTURIAS), a patient support group for people with respiratory diseases in the Asturias region of Spain.

"When I retired, my doctor, who is president of the association, wanted to help me. He knew that I was a very active person and thought I would fit well in the role".

The aim of the association is to help patients with COPD. Fernando believes the condition is still widely unknown. Through the association, they raise awareness of the disease and its treatments, as well as providing lifestyle advice to support people with COPD to lead normal lives.

Getting support

Living with three respiratory conditions has made Fernando determined to enjoy life and encourage others to also take control. "For people living with COPD and their family members, COPD patient organisations can provide valuable support and much needed advice. For those living with COPD, I really recommend to try to live life without thinking about it too much and worrying about the disease. It is very important to continue playing sports, go out with friends and, in general, lead a normal life."

COPD patient groups exist all around the world and are there to offer you support, advice and the opportunity to meet with others who are also living with the condition. Your doctor or nurse will be able to direct you to your local patient group.

If you are looking for more advice and information, visit our resources page where you will find a wealth of resources from COPD patient groups.