Copd and quitting smoking

Can people with COPD get better?

Although there is currently no cure for COPD, there are many ways that a person can reduce their symptoms and slow disease progression. They include:

Quitting smoking

Share on PinterestQuitting smoking cannot reverse COPD, but it can slow the progression.

The main causes and risk factors for COPD include:

  • smoking
  • environmental factors
  • genetics

Smoking causes 85–90 percent of COPD cases. The best thing that a person who smokes and has COPD can do is stop smoking cigarettes altogether.

Quitting smoking cannot completely reverse COPD, but it can help slow the progression of the disease and may improve the body’s response to treatment.

As well as preventing any further damage to the lungs, quitting smoking can improve the immune system.

Avoiding irritants

Also, those with COPD will benefit from avoiding any environmental factors that may irritate their lungs, including secondhand smoke, air pollution, and dust.

A person with COPD should also try to manage any allergies that may contribute to their breathing difficulties.

Improving exercise

Exercise cannot cure or reverse COPD, but it may improve some of the symptoms.

One of the symptoms of COPD is shortness of breath. This symptom can make exercise and everyday physical tasks difficult. A lack of exercise may also weaken the muscles and make a person’s heart and lungs even less tolerant to physical activity. As a result, exercise is important to keep the muscles strong.

Pulmonary rehabilitation programs can be useful in improving a person’s ability to tolerate exercise. People who have COPD should start slow and gradually increase their exercise with the guidance of a doctor.

It is important that a person’s exercise routine includes:

Share on PinterestExercise can improve the symptoms of COPD.

  • a warmup and stretching
  • cardiovascular exercises, such as walking or using a stationary bike
  • strength training, such as using hand weights

According to the CDC, the benefits of exercise include:

  • a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease
  • a reduced risk of diabetes and metabolic syndrome
  • a reduced risk of cancer
  • better weight control
  • stronger muscles and bones
  • improved mental health and mood

Eating well

Getting regular exercise and following a healthful diet can also boost the immune system and improve COPD symptoms, as well as general health.

In particular, a person should limit their intake of simple carbohydrates, instead opting for complex carbohydrates, and consume 20–30 grams of fiber per day.

With COPD, It’s Never Too Late to Quit Smoking

However, Dr. Nicolacakis adds, COPD is not reversible. “If you quit smoking, you may see a slight improvement in pulmonary function,” she says. “But the big reason to quit is that after a few months your lungs will start to gradually return to a normal rate of aging.”

Studies show that COPD smokers who quit:

  • Have fewer COPD flare-ups, called COPD exacerbations
  • Have fewer hospital admissions
  • Have less risk of dying from COPD

Additionally, quitting smoking decreases risk for heart disease, lung cancer, and stroke. It also protects others from the damaging effects of secondhand smoke.

Finding the Motivation to Quit Smoking

Nicotine is addictive. That’s why stopping is such a challenge. Studies show that although most smokers want to quit, doing so may require multiple attempts. “One of the best motivations for quitting is having your doctor tell you that you must,” says Nicolacakis.

And make no mistake: COPD is a must-quit diagnosis.

Research has shown that people with a diagnosis of COPD are more likely to quit smoking than people with normal lung function, but some need extra help to get over the hurdles. A recent study published in the journal Pulmonary Medicine looked at smoking-cessation statistics for people with COPD in Finland. Of 739 people in the study, about 60 percent of the men and 56 percent of the women had stopped smoking within roughly 5 years of their COPD diagnosis. Among those who were not yet able to quit, two of the biggest obstacles were alcohol abuse and mental health issues.

“It is certainly true to say that it is never too late for a COPD smoker to quit smoking,” says Dr. Hatipoglu. It is also never too early to quit — even if you don’t have COPD. If you still smoke and are struggling to quit, ask your doctor for help.

“We know that between 20 and 30 percent of people who smoke will get COPD,” says Nicolacakis. “There may be a genetic component that puts some people at greater risk, but since we don’t have any way to tell who those people are, the best advice for everyone is to quit smoking or not to start.”

Reversing smoke-induced damage and disease in the lung

“It has not been very clear what causes the disease and there has been no therapy to stop or reverse lung destruction in emphysema,” said Norbert Weissman of the University of Giessen Lung Center in Germany. “There have really been no new concepts about therapy in the last 20 years.”

It’s not for lack of interest, he said. In fact, COPD, including chronic bronchitis and emphysema, is expected to become the third-greatest cause of death worldwide by the year 2020.

In addition to airway inflammation and decreased of respiratory function, COPD is often accompanied by pulmonary hypertension, which is essentially high blood pressure in the lungs. Whether this condition was a cause or a consequence of COPD was not known.

Now, with powerful mouse models of COPD, Weissman and colleagues provide evidence that changes to the pulmonary blood vessels and the development of high blood pressure precede the development of emphysema. They further trace those effects to an inducible form of an enzyme known as nitric oxide synthase (iNOS), which catalyzes the formation of nitric oxide.

Nitric oxide (NO) and the nitric oxide system are important for opening up blood vessels and maintaining vascular tone, Weissman said. When nitric oxide levels grow too high, however, the molecule can undergo a chemical reaction forming aggressive peroxynitrite.

“Simply put, peroxynitrite can modify protein functions, leading to the destruction of lung tissue,” Weissman said.

It appears this is exactly what happens in the development of emphysema. Mice lacking the iNOS enzyme were protected from both emphysema and pulmonary hypertension. Importantly, existing pharmacological agents can block iNOS activity, and mice treated with one of these drugs were protected from COPD-like changes to their lung vasculature. Treatment with the inhibitor also successfully reversed the course of the disease in the mice.

“For reversal of emphysema, you need active restructuring of the lung,” Weissman said, noting that there is more work to do to explore the pathways involved.

The iNOS inhibitor used in these studies has already been used in clinical trials with apparently no major side effects, Weissman says. He and his team plan to pursue use of the drug as an inhaled therapy, with the hope that it may reach therapeutic concentrations only where it is needed.

Emphysema Prognosis After Quitting Smoking: What to Expect

16 Sep 2017 | Under Disease Education, Emphysema, Exercise, Lifestyle, Lung Disease, Tips | Posted by |

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Why should someone with emphysema stop smoking after they’re diagnosed with the disease? After all, the damage to the lungs has already been done, hasn’t it? Why go through the discomfort and inconvenience of quitting smoking now? Here’s what to expect with an emphysema prognosis after quitting smoking.

All the scientific evidence available about smoking cessation and emphysema indicates that lung function decline slows dramatically once a person quits smoking, meaning you’ll likely experience a change in your emphysema prognosis after quitting smoking. According to most research, lung function decline normalizes—that is, it declines at a similar rate to others of the same age, height, weight and sex, once a person breaks the habit of inhaling toxic smoke.

Unfortunately for some, lung function can decline quickly as compared to other people with emphysema. Those who experience this are known as “rapid decliners.”

What Factors Contribute to a Decline in Emphysema Prognosis?

According to the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, when lung function declines more rapidly than that of others of a similar demographic, there can be an increased risk of hospitalization and even early death.

How can someone with emphysema know how quickly his or her lung function will decline? Here are a few risk factors for being in the rapidly declining emphysema group:

  • Smoking
  • Frequent respiratory infections
  • A genetic predisposition to rapid decline of lung function
  • Other illnesses contributing to declining lung function
  • Advanced disease
  • An age of 50 or older
  • Being female
  • African ancestry

Why Quit Smoking to Improve Emphysema Prognosis?

The European Respiratory Journal suggests that smoking cessation improves emphysema symptoms and emphysema prognosis after quitting smoking, reduces the hyper-responsiveness of airways (also known as bronchoconstriction), and “normalizes the excessive FEV1 decline in all stages of the disease.” FEV1, or forced expiratory volume, is a measurement of the amount of air a person can forcefully blow out of his or her lungs in one second. It’s the major indicator of lung function for people with emphysema, as it demonstrates lung capacity.

How to Head Off a Rapid Decline in Lung Function and Improve Emphysema Prognosis after Quitting Smoking

At a certain age, lung function declines as a result of the natural aging process. With the added burden of smoking, the lungs have increased difficulty keeping up with the damage, and the rate of lung function decline occurs even more quickly. Research shows that smoking cessation is the single most effective way to slow emphysema progression and other forms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), so why in the world do so many people continue to smoke? The hardest part of quitting is finding the motivation to take the first step. It’s always easy to find a reason to put it off. If there’s one universal truth about quitting that applies to all of us, it’s that no one is ever prepared to quit smoking. Smoking is an addiction, and in the case of addiction, we need to admit that getting help is a good idea. Quitting is tough, but no one has to do it alone. Here are a few of the many options to help people quit:

  • A Free Smoking Cessation Guide

    The Lung Institute offers a free, online Smoking Cessation Guide, a good place to start building motivation to begin the daily road to living tobacco-free. Inside, you also can find contact information, so you can connect with the in-person, human assistance that helps smokers quit. Remember, you can quit smoking, and we’re here to help.

  • Freedom From Smoking

    For adult smokers, the American Lung Association offers the Freedom From Smoking®program, which teaches skills and techniques proven to help smokers quit. Freedom From Smoking® is available as a group clinic, an online program or as a book. The ALA also has cessation counselors available on their Lung HelpLine.

  • Quitter’s Circle

    With a strong online community of “Quitters” and mobile app, Quitter’s Circle can be an effective smoking cessation tool. Developed in collaboration between the American Lung Association and Pfizer, Quitter’s Circle helps users personalize a quit plan and access healthcare provider resources for quitting smoking to slow emphysema progression.

Can Emphysema Progression Be Slowed?

  • Eating a diet high in antioxidants

A healthy diet, rich in antioxidant vitamins like A, C, E and selenium may be associated with better lung function.

  • Avoiding long-term exposure to air pollution

Create a smoke-free environment in your home. Avoid exposure to wood burning stoves, biomass fuels and chemical fumes, and stay indoors on days when air quality is poor.

  • Exercising every day

Research suggests that moderate to high levels of regular physical exercise are associated with reduced levels of lung function decline and risk of COPD in smokers. Imagine what exercise will do for you if you quit!

We Can Help.

We’re the Lung Institute, a leading medical provider of regenerative cellular therapy for lung diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema, pulmonary fibrosis and interstitial lung disease in the United States. Founded in 2013 in Tampa, Fla., the Lung Institute has treated over 2,500 patients and operates clinics in Florida, Tennessee, Arizona, Pennsylvania and Texas. You can do it; you can quit smoking and work to improve your emphysema prognosis after quitting smoking. For more information, contact us or call 888-745-6697.

It’s a fact of life. Everyone breathes a little harder and heavier as they age, but in people with emphysema, the progression occurs much faster. In the United States, nearly four million people have emphysema and more than 100,000 people die from the disease each year. And, many more people die from a secondary disease caused by emphysema. Lung disease, including emphysema, is the fourth most common cause of death in the United States.

What is emphysema?
Emphysema is a serious disease that affects the lungs. It is one of three major diseases included under the category of COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, along with chronic bronchitis and asthmatic bronchitis. Because severe bronchitis and emphysema are so closely interrelated, physicians often refer to a combined disorder known as COPD. The two diseases often develop simultaneously and require similar treatments. When the two occur together, it is sometimes difficult to distinguish between the two. When a person suffers from emphysema, the alveoli, or tiny air sacs in the lungs, lose elasticity, making it difficult to breathe.

Smoking, the most common cause of emphysema, often causes chronic bronchitis, which tends to narrow and obstruct the bronchial airways with mucus, scarring, and muscle spasms in the walls of the bronchial tubes. As a result, air becomes trapped in the lungs, making it difficult to exchange with new air; therefore, hard to breathe. There are four stages of emphysema: mild, moderate, severe and very severe. As the disease advances, an individual will see more symptoms and quality of life changes. Although symptoms of emphysema may appear suddenly and rapidly, the disease itself takes a long time to develop.

What causes emphysema?
Smoking is the biggest contributing factor to emphysema. It accounts for 80 percent of all cases. Not surprisingly, cigarette smokers are 10 to 15 times more likely to develop emphysema than non-smokers. Emphysema may also be caused by exposure to other pollutants including occupational hazards and exposures such as chemicals and dust, secondhand smoke, poor indoor ventilation and outdoor air pollution. Some individuals may have a rare genetic deficiency of alpha-1 antitrypsin which is a natural chemical in the body that controls elasticity in the lungs and may protect against damage to the lungs. This deficiency may cause emphysema to develop in non-smokers at a young age, typically under age 40.

What are symptoms of emphysema?
Emphysema is a serious disease that may be fatal. Detecting emphysema in its early stages may make treating and living with emphysema more manageable. The symptoms sometimes do not appear right away but rather when the disease is in its later stages typically in smokers after age 50.

– Shortness of breath (even with light activity)

– Rapid, labored breathing and persistent craving for air Enlarged chest

– Constant tiredness (even after waking up)

– Cough-with or without mucus Inability to exercise

Rare symptoms may include:
– Unintentional weight loss

– Excessive sweating

– Fever and chills

If any of the symptoms listed above develop, contact a health care provider immediately. The earlier the diagnosis can be made, the easier it will be to manage the disease and benefit from more treatment options.

How is emphysema diagnosed?
A health care provider may diagnose emphysema by physical exam, history and symptoms. Upon physical exam, a physician may hear wheezing, decreased breath sounds or prolonged exhalation. But, the gold-standard for diagnosing emphysema is via spirometry which is a lung function test that measures volume and force of air as it is exhaled from the lungs. It measures how much air and how fast the air is exhaled. A chest x-ray or CT scan may show inflated lungs but at the point an x-ray reveals the disease, symptoms are apparent to the patient. X-ray or CT may be helpful in ruling out lung cancer.

What kinds of treatment are available for emphysema?
There is not any treatment currently available to reverse emphysema but there are measures to control it and its symptoms. Emphysema is typically considered a progressive, non-reversible disease. The goal is to identify the disease soon enough to administer general maintenance treatments.

Because smoking is the main cause of emphysema, permanent smoking cessation is necessary. Smoking cessation is the only way to stop the progression of emphysema. Continuing to smoke may increase the severity of the disease. In many who do quit smoking early, lung function may stabilize but the lost lung function is never fully recovered.

There are many medical treatments available to slow the progression of the disease. A health care provider may prescribe some medications to relax the bronchial muscles, open the airways and reduce inflammation including short-acting and long-acting bronchodilators. An inhaled steroid, in addition to a long-acting bronchodilator, often heeds the best results. Although bronchodilators do not improve or cure the disease, they do help improve day-to-day quality of life by improving breathlessness and the ability to exercise.

Receiving annual influenza vaccines and the pneumococcal vaccine when recommended can help prevent infections and associated complications in those with emphysema.

Patients may also participate in pulmonary rehabilitation which focuses on exercise training, breathing classes and nutritional education which help ease the symptoms of emphysema. These treatments usually work best for those in the early stages of the disease.

For those with very severe emphysema, some surgeries may be an option including bullectomy (removal of a consolidated area of emphysema) and lung transplant, although these are rare occurrences.

Keeping infection under control is important for maintenance of the disease because any infection can worsen symptoms and speed deterioration of the lungs. A physician may treat an individual with emphysema for respiratory infections such as bronchitis with antibiotics early to prevent this from happening and in severe cases, may add breathing equipment that helps administer oxygen.

Who develops emphysema?
Not surprisingly, smokers have the highest risk of developing emphysema. The typical patient with emphysema is a current or former smoker, over the age 50. Studies show that 15 to 20 percent of all smokers will develop emphysema in their lifetime. Emphysema is very rare in young people under 40 but the incidence of emphysema steadily increases with age. Women are just as likely to develop the disease as men but more women tend to die from emphysema. Women also report more severe symptoms, greater depression and tend to have poorer quality of life. They seem to be more susceptible to the effects of smoking and pollutants possibly because of hormones.

There are a fair number of occupations that put workers at a higher risk of exposure to potentially harmful irritants. Workers exposed to toxic chemicals, dust and air pollutants are at a greater risk to develop emphysema than workers who choose other occupations. Some potential occupations may include: grain farmers, miners, furnace workers, welders and cooks.

What can be done to reduce the risk of emphysema?
Once an individual develops emphysema, the damage cannot be reversed so it is best to reduce the risk of emphysema from happening in the first place. The simplest way to reduce the risk of emphysema is to refrain from smoking altogether. If it is too late to refrain, quit smoking immediately. It is also important to avoid second-hand smoke. Try and avoid occupational risk factors. Additional healthy life-style choices are also helpful. Exercising and eating healthy meals and snacks has been shown to reduce the risk of emphysema.

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