Why you need to Quit Smoking (2) ... emphysema is the end.
As described in part one of this blog, cigarette smoking increases your risk of ALL types of cancer. But still, an impressive number of smokers live to die of something other than cancer.
Death by heart attack, stroke, and pulmonary embolism are all also massively increased in smokers. And while non-smokers may occasionally die of the same thing, smokers just do so with greater frequency and earlier in life.
Were that not enough to get you thinking, emphysema is a whole 'nother chapter and it's bad. If you're not lucky enough to die quickly of the aforementioned, or fairly quickly of cancer, you will surely be met with the slow and agonizing suffocation that is emphysema.
Here's how it works: emphysema is a problem with body chemistry and a substance called collagen. Collagen is what makes everything point skyward in the young. It gives structural support in tissue and accords the characteristics you might know as perkiness, lilt, or even bounce in some cases. In the lungs collagen joins other proteins to make them strong but flexible, stretchable to carry out ventilation in the proper way.
But there is a point where too much collagen could be a problem (google scleroderma or crest syndrome) so the human chemistry set contains something called collagenase - to break down collagen and achieve a perfect balance between too much collagen and and not enough.
Smoking cigarettes causes the lung tissue to make more collagenase. More collagenase means less collagen and less collagen means less lungs to breath. And where does it go? Collagen fragments end up being cleared by your kidneys, into your urine, to be flushed down the toilet - never to return. Smokers are peeing their lungs out. Horrifying.
The remaining lung tissue then gets repaired (ironically with more collagen than is necessary - like a scar) to make the lungs both absent and stiff and therefore unable to carry out the mission of gas exchange.
So what does that mean? Big Problem.
The lungs are charged with absorbing oxygen (O2) and releasing carbon dioxide (CO2). But with emphysema, the ability to release CO2 decreases with the decrease in lung volume. So it's hard to get rid of CO2 if you don't have enough lung to do it. And wouldn't you know it? Increasing CO2 (not a lack of O2) is what makes you want to breath. Too much CO2 gives the sense of suffocation.
Try this out: When you go to bed tonight, pull the covers over your head like you are afraid of the monsters. Stay under there until you decide to come out for some fresh air. But as you do, tell yourself to remain calm and breath slowly and that you can go for a while longer before lifting the covers for fresh air. Breath slowly, stay calm. You'll be able to stay under there for quite a while but there will come a point where nothing else matters than your next breath of fresh air. At the moment where you cannot stand it another second remember this... emphysema means you can never clear CO2 and you will always be hungry for air - like someone is holding you under those covers...forever... ... ... ... Horrifyng.
You need to quit smoking...right now.
It's difficult. It takes a long time. But anything else is not quitting.
After 17 years of pack-a-day smoking I quit - right in the middle of medical school- and I'm so glad I did. Almost simultaneously I learned what smoking was doing to me and how I could remedy the addiction. I took everything I learned and I finally quit smoking. And with the same help, you can too.
Book an appointment to get started by clicking
"addictions" (above) then "smoking cessation".