Quitting Smoking is the Best Thing You Can Do for Your COPD

Not all those who contract COPD are smokers, and not all smokers end up with COPD. Still, the link is undeniable: 85%-90% of all COPD cases are caused by smoking cigarettes[1], and smoking accounts for 8 in 10 COPD deaths[2].

What is the connection?

By lighting up a cigarette, it activates a chemical chain reaction that creates thousands of harmful substances. By inhaling, they go straight to your lungs, wreaking havoc along the way. These abrasive toxins damage the airways, causing them to swell and narrow. Excess mucus is produced, clogging them even more. Air sacs are destroyed. Before long, the lungs start to lose their ability to combat infections, and breathing becomes more and more difficult. Combined, these factors contribute heavily to an eventual irreversible COPD diagnosis.

If it’s irreversible, why bother quitting?

You might be wondering: if the damage is already done, then is there even a point to quitting?

True, the lungs naturally lose some of their capacity and function over time as we age, but the rate of decline is FAR more severe in cigarette smokers. The more severe the decline, the more severe COPD symptoms become. However, if a smoker with COPD quits smoking, the rate of decline can revert back to that of a non-smoker with time, making quitting smoking the best and quickest method of maintaining respiratory function and slowing COPD progression.

As an added bonus, avoiding cigarettes can also help in preventing serious flare-ups from occurring. These flare-ups can cause complications in treatment, hospitalization, and even death. If you want to cut down your medical expenses and maximize your lifespan, quitting cigarettes is a must.

Yet, despite all this, among the 15 million U.S. adults with COPD, 39% continue to smoke.

How can I quit?

The truth is, the nicotine in cigarettes can be very addicting, and overcoming addiction is usually not easy. That said, many people manage to quit smoking cigarettes every year, and you can too with the right amount of dedication and a method that works for you. Here are some examples:

Get Your Doctor’s Opinion

Obviously, your doctor will absolutely recommend that anyone of any age quit smoking no matter the circumstances, so you’ll have no surprises there. But what your doctor can do is give you a detailed rundown of what smoking is doing to your body and put things in the right perspective to get you motivated to quit. Everyone knows that smoking is bad for you, but sometimes what’s really needed is to simply hear it the right way from the right person.

Nicotine Replacement

Remember, the cigarettes may be the things causing all the damage, but it’s not the cigarettes themselves you’re hooked on. It’s the nicotine. It makes sense then, that replacing the nicotine source is one of the most popular methods of controlling cravings and managing withdrawal symptoms while your lungs do what they can to recover from the smoke damage. Gum and patches containing nicotine are popular options that have led to success for many people, but some – those who are drawn to the habit as much as they are to the nicotine — find that these methods don’t mimic the smoking experience well enough to serve as a proper substitute. In that case, a nicotine vaporizer (also known as an “electronic cigarette”, “e-cig”, or “vape”) might be a better option. Vaporizers use a battery-powered heating element to convert liquid nicotine into a cloudy vapor similar to that produced by a fog machine, emulating the look and feel of smoking a real cigarette but with far fewer harmful chemicals. Be warned, however: due to their relative newness, the long-term effects of using a vaporizer are yet unknown. Still, when used as a short-term solution to wean oneself off cigarettes, they can be quite effective.

Just Quit Cold Turkey

This method is the most difficult, but if you’re confident enough to in your ability to deal with the withdrawal symptoms without a nicotine replacement, it might just be the one for you. Here are a few tips for success:

  • Be decisive. Pick a date in the near future and stick to it. Resolve to not buy another pack once your current one is empty.
  • Be aware of the immediate benefits of quitting cold turkey. Within 12 hours, blood pressure, pulse rate, and blood oxygen levels return to normal. Within 2 days, your sense of smell and taste start to return to normal. Within 3 days, withdrawal symptoms have peaked and the worst of it will be over. Within a month, you’ll notice an improvement in lung function and your heart attack risk will have dropped significantly.
  • Expect to feel anxious, depressed, and irritated. Avoid stressful situations and things that trigger cravings. Remember that these feelings are temporary, but more importantly, they’re NORMAL.
  • Surround yourself with people who will support you, but who will also hold you accountable. If they themselves have successfully quit in the past, then all the better.

[1] http://www.lung.org/lung-health-and-diseases/lung-disease-lookup/copd/symptoms-causes-risk-factors/what-causes-copd.html

[2] https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/campaign/tips/diseases/copd.html