smokers and reducing risk of emphysema

How ex-smokers can reduce their risk of emphysema

If you are an ex-smoker, one of the reasons you may have quit cigarettes is that you wanted to avoid chronic lung disease, or emphysema, that can develop in smokers. This is a difficult and debilitating chronic disease, and some cases worsen to the point that constant oxygen is needed.

Not a pretty site, and if you smoked and quit, congratulations, you have decreased your risk of chronic lung disease. But, don’t be too comfortable—depending on how long and how much you smoked, you may still have a greatly increased chance of developing emphysema.

For example, the actor Leonard Nimoy (Star Trek) developed emphysema 30 years after he quit smoking. But each year after you quit smoking, your risk decreases.

What can lower the risk of emphysema

So of course the first step to lowering the emphysema risk is to quit smoking, but then, do you just sit back and see what happens? Is there anything else you can do? It turns out that improving your diet—eating more fruits and vegetables—can significantly lower your risk of developing emphysema in the years after you quit.

This research, just published in the medical journal Thorax, studied over 44,000 Swedish men, ages 45 to 79, over a period of 13 years. Almost 2 out of 3 were ex-smokers, and about 1 out of 4 of them still smoked. The researchers correlated the men’s smoking habits with their diet and related that to if they developed chronic lung disease.

The results showed that if a man ate 5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables per day, that their risk of developing debilitating lung disease was 34% lower than men who ate less than 2 servings of fruits and vegetables per day. And for men who were still smoking, but ate at least 5 servings per day, their risk was an impressive 40% lower than smoking men who did eat many fruits or vegetables.

The reason for the better lungs in the men who ate the fruits and vegetables is thought to be due to the high quantity of anti-oxidants in these foods. The antioxidants seem to help prevent the breakdown of the lung tissue that can lead to emphysema in smokers and ex-smokers.

Advice if you are a smoker or ex-smoker

If you are a smoker, stop. Each year you smoke, you increase the chance you will develop emphysema, but the sooner you stop, the sooner your lungs will start to heal. If, for whatever reason, you are still unable to stop, or If you ever were a smoker, even years ago—the advice is to eat at least 5 servings of fruits and/or vegetables per day. The more the better.

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Esta postagem também está disponível em: Portuguese (Brazil)