The lungs are two of the most important organs that are affected by the coronavirus, which leads to Covid infection in the respiratory system. It has been noticed that while most patients recover completely after the infection, at least 5 per cent to 10 per cent experience prolonged symptoms that last for several months or even years. This is known as ‘long Covid‘.
Dr Vishal Sehgal, the president of Portea Medical says “pulmonary rehabilitation” can improve a person’s lung function, their exercise performance, quality of life, and even counter any anxiety associated with the condition.
“Pulmonary rehabilitation is symptom-based; it requires a multi-pronged approach to deal with the various related complications. It is a holistic plan that comprises preliminary patient assessment followed by medicinal treatment, lifestyle modifications, physical exercise, nutritional support, self-awareness and psychological counselling,” he says.
According to the expert, some major aspects of a rehabilitation programme are as follows:
1. Physical activity
Physical activity can significantly improve the quality of daily living. From low-impact training for the chest and back muscles, to more intense forms of exercise, there is a range of activities that can help. Under the guidance of a trained specialist, these are done depending on individual progress and capacity, says Dr Sehgal.
2. Breathing techniques
Breathing techniques can help alleviate the pressure on the lungs. There are different types of breathing techniques including those that are part of yoga that can help in case the patient experiences symptoms of breathlessness, he adds. “For instance, pranayama — the ancient practice of breath control — helps in improving multiple aspects of physical health, including lung function.”
3. Diet and lifestyle
A balanced diet helps in boosting immunity and overall wellness. It can also help in alleviating certain symptoms of long Covid, the doctor states. “Those who are put under a pulmonary rehab programme are given a diet rich in complex carbohydrates and fibres, as well as other micronutrients. In case a patient lacks access to a proper rehabilitation facility at hospitals, it is possible to do this process at home.”
“People who survive Covid-19 can experience long-term consequences: respiratory, neuropsychiatric, cardiovascular, hematologic, gastrointestinal, renal, and endocrine. There is a rapid increase in the burden of long Covid which calls for strategies that can help improve outcomes over time,” says Dr Sehgal, adding that on World Lung Day, it is important to understand and discuss these strategies as well as take precautions and prevent the spread of the virus further.