Say No to Tobacco for better lungs
Smoking is recognized as the most important causative factor for COPD, 50-60% of smokers suffer from COPD. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), tobacco-related deaths are projected to increase to 8.3 million deaths per year by 2030. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a progressive and debilitating lung disease, which means the condition worsens over time. The disease causes coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath. Various factors contribute to COPD, including prolonged exposure to air pollutants and dust. However, cigarette smoking is far and away from the leading cause of the disease. The most effective available treatment for COPD is smoking cessation.
Dr. Rajratan Sadawarte, Chest Physician at Kohinoor hospital said, “50-60% smokers who visit me, have COPD. It is the leading cause of death due to smoking, and the life expectancy of a smoker is 60 years. If one smokes 20 cigarettes a day for 20 years, he/she can get COPD. It is a partially reversible disease and early warning signs of it are difficulty in walking, breathlessness, and cough. The patients tend to visit the doctor when their COPD becomes severe. They may be admitted in the ICU, can suffer from phenomena or may require oxygen therapy at home. Thus, smokers with COPD are advised to opt for pulmonary rehabilitation which is a supervised program that includes exercise training, health education, and breathing techniques.”
Dr. Arvind Kate, Pulmonologist, Zen Multispecialty Hospital, said, “10-12% smokers, suffer from COPD. Cigarette smoke (nicotine smoke) causes disturbances in the protective layer of our respiratory passage referred to as mucosa. Long term smoke exposure damages the air exchanging unit referred alveoli of the lung. Then, the patient will develop long-standing COPD or emphysema. There are 2 types of COPD, one is bronchitis in which the patient predominantly experiences coughing and the other one is emphysema wherein one encounters breathlessness. There are genetic variants for the development of COPD, and all the smokers may not suffer from COPD. Smokers who experience smoker’s cough or lack of stamina should immediately visit the doctor as it can be the warning signs of COPD. Also, COPD patients are at the risk of other problems like hypertension, ischemic stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, and respiratory failure, due to which their life expectancy can go down if they continue to smoke.”
“A smoker is asked to undergo pulmonary function tests (PFTs) so that they get to know about the certain disturbances or abnormalities which occur due to smoking. If the COPD patient continues to smoke then problems like coughing and breathlessness will not come under control, despite taking regular medications. Hence, smokers diagnosed with COPD are advised to enroll themselves for smoking cessation therapy (the process of discontinuing tobacco smoking). Counseling, behavior therapy, medicines, and nicotine-containing products, such as nicotine patches, gum, inhalers, and nasal sprays, may be used to help a person quit smoking, along with medications recommended by the doctor. Moreover, monitoring the lung functioning regularly, taking a vaccine to prevent infections, doing yoga and breathing exercises can enhance one’s lung function,” concluded Dr. Kate.
Dr. Unmil Shah, Pulmonologist at Global Hospital Parel, Mumbai, said, “Lung health is an important concept and applies to each and every individual. Mere breathing exercises are not going to be sufficient to maintain it”. As they say ‘Prevention is better than Cure’, it is important on us as a society to understand risks of tobacco exposure on health.