Every year I visit the doctor for a routine checkup. After they check my blood pressure, weight, height, hair color, ear lobes, shoe laces, horoscopes, uvula, facebook page, voting history, and diploma, they give me a special test called a PFT.
WHAT IS THE PFT?
PFT stands for “Pulmonary Function Test.” This test measures how well my lungs are working by measuring lung volume, lung capacity, rates of flow, and gas exchange by looking at:
- the amount of air inhaled or exhaled during normal breathing
- the total amount of air exhaled per minute
- the total volume of air that can be exhaled after inhaling as much as you can
- the amount of air left in lungs after exhaling normally
- the amount of air left in the lungs after exhaling as much as you can.
- the total volume of the lungs when filled with as much air as possible
- the amount of air exhaled forcefully and quickly after inhaling as much as you can
- the amount of air expired during the first, second, and third seconds of the test
- the average rate of flow during the middle half of the test
- the fastest rate that you can force air out of your lungs
I take this test by putting a clip on my nose and breathing into a mouthpiece. I take normal breaths for as long as I want, and when I’m ready, I breath in as much as I can as fast as I can before blasting a deep breath into the tube for as long as the person giving me the test tells me to breath back in….which feels like an eternity. I repeat this process at least 3-5 times. I’m always given as many tries as I’d like before I feel that I’ve done my best. The machine I breathe into computes the results in liters and tells me the percentage of my lungs that are functioning in one second after immediate exhalation (fev1) and overall lung exhalation (fvc).
For the longest time I was hovering around 84%-86%. It wasn’t until I got serious with my training and eating that I saw my percentage jump into the 90% range for a few years, and ultimately to where I am now: 97%-100%. Not only do I believe that eating and training contributed to my increase in lung function, but something else helped to contribute to this as well: HOW I take the PFT test. Let me explain.
For most of my life, I had been taking this test by inhaling as much as I could as quick as I could before blasting out all the air that i could with all of the force of the cosmos behind me. When each test was over I would be dark red, out of air and close to passing out, and dealing with an intense headache. Eventually, I got tired of doing that and thought that there has to be a better way. Lo and behold, there was. I think it was around 3 years ago…give or take…that I decided to try a different way. Instead of standing up and blasting with the entire force of the cosmos as mentioned already, I sat down and exhaled forcefully but with control. My hands were sitting on my legs and I remained upright. My body was controlled as I was exhaling as hard and as long as I could for the test. The results were astonishing. My number before the test was either a 90% or a 92% (I can’t remember) and my number after trying it this way catapulted my lung function to 100%. I had never reached that point before. That confirmed for me that HOW I took the PFT is just as important as my aerosols, training, and eating.
I tried this again at my next doctor visit a year later, which was in June this year (2019). I wanted to be sure of this, so I took the test four different ways:
1. standing up and blasting with the full force of the cosmos
2. sitting down and blasting with the full force of the cosmos
3. standing up and blasting with control and good posture
4. sitting down and blasting with control and good posture
Number 1 resulted in 87% lung function, and number 4 resulted in 97% lung function. Just by sitting down and blasting with control and good posture, I increased my lung function by 10%. It stopped and made me think, “I could’ve walked out of here today thinking my lung function was at 87% when it was actually 97%.” It also made me stop and think how many others have left their appointments with a lung function 10% less than it actually was?” That can make a huge difference.
I asked the respiratory therapist a few years ago why this makes a difference and they told me it was because standing up and blasting with everything you got will actually restrict certain air sacs from functioning, which will effect your lung function.
Try this at your next PFT test. I’m curious if your numbers will go up like it did for me.
This is my first post since June, i think. Life is extremely busy and I will try to blooooooog more as I get the time to do so. If there’s anything CF-wise or exercise-wise you’d like me to cover, let me know.
Until next time,