Obstructive Lung Disease
by S2H RT Staff

Many people think that smoking won't effect them the way they see it affect others. Why should they get obstructive lung disease? Most of the younger people who smoke feel a certain invincibility. Why shouldn't they, they've been told the world is at their feet and they can accomplish anything. Sadly though, many start smoking very casually at first and then it just becomes a natural extension of their cult o' personality. Then surprise, fifty years later they have some kind of heart disease or obstructive lung disease.

Many older people who smoke will tell you that it was the biggest mistake they ever made. I've often had patients tell me they wished they had never started the habit. Of course, this is some 30-40 years later when their sense of invincibility is not quite as strong and they're having to live with obstructive lung disease.

That's the thing about smoking, it's kind of like that tortoise in the race with the rabbit. It just slowly plods along until it wears you out. Before you realize it, you need a pack of cigarettes each day to get that same feeling or buzz. Then before you realize it, you need a cigarette to deal with the stresses of the day. Finally, you start noticing chest pains or shortness of breath or a cough that just won't go away. But by this time, smoking has essentially won the race.

Lets look at one disease which is known by many names: Obstructive lung disease or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Many know this by yet another name, emphysema. Don't believe half of what you read on the internet by people who aren't acutely familiar with this disease. A lot of it is just hear-say or someone's best guess. In a nutshell, obstructive lung disease is where someone's airways become inflamed and constrict when they exhale. This essentially traps air in the lungs, not allowing for a full exhalation. This is what gives many people with COPD that tell-tale barrel chest. Their lungs just can't get all the air out. So what's the big deal you may ask? Well, if you can't get all the air out, then you can't exchange the bad air for good air - carbon dioxide for oxygen. Eventually, your body tries to adjust to the higher levels of carbon dioxide it has to handle. But it can only compensate for so long. Then the heart and kidneys become distressed. Now you're talking about a multi-system disease.

I have had people with COPD brag that they can take a deep breath in. It's like that is a sign they can point to as an indicator of proper lung health. But I always respond with, "Yes, but can you breathe it all out?". Of course, the answer is that they cannot, hence the name obstructive lung disease. They are obstructed when they try to breathe out, the airways simply collapse and it feels like you're trying to exhale through a straw.

This eventually leads to shortness of breath and the dependence on airway medications like inhalers and steroids. Not the kind that give you bulk and make you a workout warrior, but rather the kind that reduce the inflammation in your lungs. Many people who suffer from COPD are dependent on oxygen therapy as well. The reason why oxygen medical supply companies are so popular these days is because so many people smoke. COPD patients and cardiac patients are the two largest users of home oxygen. Both of course, although not entirely, are smoking related diseases.

Despite this, smoking continues to enjoy popularity among the people of the world. In fact, 20% of all Americans smoke. Curiously, 20% of all deaths in the US are due to smoking as well. So look over the stop smoking benefits. Ask yourself how active you'll be in twenty years when you have obstructive pulmonary disease. I think you'll be amazed at how much there is to gain through smoking cessation.

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