Batswana have been consuming a lot negative information about COVID-19 from all sources; Television, Radio social media, friends and families affected by COVID-19. Growing numbers of COVID-19 deaths and sudden deaths of loved ones has caused a lot stress and anxiety among our population. This is like repeat of the HIV/ aids pandemic, which left Batswana extremely stressed with orphans left to Government to take care of. Batswana never gave up, we fought back. This world is not coming to an end anytime sooner, we better start fighting back, lets fight back from all corners, we have experience.
Today, I would like to address key elements that has escalated deaths among the older adults, People living with diabetics and individuals struggling with obesity. From a Cardiovascular Physiotherapy point of view there is much we can do to flat the curve by addressing prevention than cure. Physiotherapists are very experienced when it comes to lung function issues as the lung is more of a mechanical organ.
Old adults may appear calm but the more interesting observation is that they fear covid-19 than any other group. Anxiety and fear of death has been a bigger problem for them contrary to the underlying conditions associated with Covid-19 deaths among this population. Anxiety and fear can cause shortness of breath. Experiencing shortness of breath (dyspnea) or other breathing difficulties can feel scary to anyone, the thought of death among this population is very serious that once the spouse dies from Covid-19, the remaining partner is more likely to die due to ‘ uncontrollable fear death and shock’
Many people worry that a symptom affecting their breathing must come from a physical issue like running and climbing stairs. In fact, your mental health affects your breathing, pains, and fatigue levels in a number of ways. Example anxiety (Mental) can cause shortness of breath (Physical). While anxiety can cause shortness of breath and other physical symptoms, it’s important to know that experiencing shortness of breath for other reasons may also create anxiety as well and one can get into a vicious cycle. Other symptoms that can occur during this response and as a result of anxiety include:
- faster and shallow breathing
- breathlessness or a feeling of suffocation
- feeling like you have a lump in your throat ( selo sa mometso)
- muscle tension especially around the neck/shoulder
By focusing on your breathing by performing deep breathing exercises, you can get it under control and get the right amount of oxygen into your lungs. When you’re experiencing shortness of breath, you’re generally breathing from your mouth or chest. Diaphragmatic deep breathing can:
- slow your breathing rate
- decrease your demand for oxygen
- use less effort and energy to breathe
The Average aged group is experiencing a lot stress more than any other group because of issues of stigma related to covid-19, fear of dying as bread winners, fear of loss of jobs due to economic uncertainty, obesity and other underlying conditions and withdrawal from their socialization patterns. Stress has proven to cause decline in one’s immune system and changes in our eating patterns, hence in some cases stress can result in weight gain and/or obesity. New research offers an answer for why some people diagnosed with obesity develop breathing problems especially in ICU.
The research has shown that both compromised diaphragm muscle and slowed movement due to pressure from excess chest and abdominal fat tissue causes breathing problems in obese people. Therefore, start losing weight while you are still covid-19 free, this can save your life when the virus starts shooting in that hospital bed.
Diabetic people are twice as likely to develop pneumonia during hospitalization than non-diabetic patients. We know very well that pneumonia reduce your oxygen/ carbon dioxide exchange at the lung level, hence regarded a deadly condition once you are hospitalized. Due to the nature of diabetes that reduce nerve activity on muscles, fast breathing can easily fatigue chest muscles as much as it affects your other muscles activity in the body. This can result in failure of lungs coping with the body’s demand for oxygen, as the rib cage fails to allow enough air to rush into the lungs.
In conclusion, there is only one way out of this fight, Start exercising to develop strong lungs, improve your immune system, control stress and anxiety and keep your diabetes under control. Your least expensive bullet you have to use to fight back this virus is exercising regularly including breathing exercises. For older adults, regular walks are recommended.
Please find a physical activity that you enjoy, once a day or twice a day. Moreover, the more we consume constructive and positive information about covid-19 the lesser we will develop anxiety and save our oxygen in our blood during the covid-19 severe attacks. Even if you are in that hospital bed, keep a positive mindset and control your anxiety and breathing. Lets continue keeping safe distances, mask up and sanitize.
Physiotherapist, City Physio Clinic