Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Price of Smoking

Once, my father chastised a taxi driver who was about to light up a cigarette. A chain smoker in his younger days, my father told the driver of the great difficulty of having emphysema, a disorder which he got through the abuse of his lungs. Now, he has to live in a very controlled environment with inhalers always within reach. He wishes to live longer but with his condition, he feels as if death is at his doorstep. Regretful as he may be now, his abusive habit has badly taken its toll.

The hazards of smoking have caught the attention of many people. Yet, there are still those who stubbornly pursue the devastating habit. The power of advertising has surely crept in and is eating the intelligence of many persons.

Cigarette smoke contains high amounts of free radicals. Nitrogen oxides in cigarette smoke react to the polyunsaturated fatty acids found in cellular membranes, causing sells to go rancid, rigid, and then die. Vitamin E protects against these reactions. Yet, no matter how much Vitamin E a smoker takes, the free radicals continuously inhaled into his system open the door and roll out the red carpet for many diseases.

Aside from lung cancer, smoking causes emphysema and increases the risk of heart attacks, strokes, and clots in the legs. It also makes peptic ulcers slower to heal.
We may not be smokers nor have someone close to us who is a walking chimney, but the very air we breathe in is also so polluted. Air pollutants coming from cars and factory exhausts give us an abundant supply of nitrogen oxides, ozone, and sulfur oxides which, when inhaled, generate toxic forms of oxygen that damage our bodies.

Antioxidants are the first line of defense for us who are exposed to air pollutants. Beta-carotene, Vitamins C, E, and B12, zinc, selenium, copper, and folic acid afford us some protection. A 1988 study has found that precancerous lesions in the airways of smokers could be reversed after the smoker receives mega doses of folic acid (10mg.) and Vitamin B12 (10mg.) daily for several months.

Gross pathology of lung showing centrilobular ...Image via Wikipedia

Emphysema is a disease that gradually destroys the lungs’ fine tissues that is essential for oxygen to reach the bloodstream. Usually, when smokes enter the lungs causing irritation and inflammation, the body automatically releases an army of destructive enzymes to fight off the invader. The body also releases protective enzymes which act as buffer to protect the lungs from any injury caused by the body’s own defenses. With emphysema taking over a smoker’s lungs, the protective enzymes run amok, so the fortresses of the lungs fall.
However, once you’re told you’ve got emphysema; your life does not have to end there. With your body a bit debilitated, certain adjustments have to be made4. a change of lifestyle is definitely needed. You have no choice but to stop smoking. It is an action that you have long postponed. Perhaps certain aspects may be irreversible, but at least you slow down the disease’s progression and prevent new problems from arising. It is best that you live in the countryside where you can have a better air to breathe.

Air-conditioned rooms provide such an artificial environment for those with emphysema. Nothing beats fresh air, especially now that you have to exercise your body.
When you have those terrible coughing spells, use deep breathing. This method is done is done with the chest relaxed, making your abdomen expand upon inhalation and contract upon exhalation. Don’t pant your breath. Try to make your body relax and sink your breath down to the abdomen. This type of deep breathing will open up those constricted bronchial tubes to enable the air to flow through.

Some reclining positions can help ease and clear out congestion. Lie face down with your chest and abdomen against the floor. Support your head by resting it on your arms. Put a soft pillow under your pelvis. Another position id to lie down flat on your back with a pillow under your hips, then bend your knees. The third position is done by lying on your side. Rest your head on one arm and drop the other behind you. Put a pillow under your hips. Cough vigorously while holding any of these positions.

Once you’ve clear your lungs of mucus, exercise in the morning and evening. Here are some very simple exercises to strengthen your body;

Exercise 1: Raise your arms and use breathe deeply, filling your lungs completely, with air. Lower your arms slowly as you exhale. Repeat three times and increase as it becomes easier for you.

Exercise 2: lie on your back with your knees bent. Place a pillow for your head and bend your arms so your head rest on them. Raise your right knee toward your chest as you breathe out. Breathe in as you lower your leg. Repeat three times and switch legs.

Exercise 3: Like sit ups, lie on your back with a pillow for your head and bend your arms behind so that they rest on top of the pillow. Now raise your head and shoulders as far as you can, and exhale. You don’t have to sit all the way up. Make three repetitions and slowly increase.

With these simpler exercises and a change of habits, persons like my father can hopefully find some relief from the difficulty of emphysema attacks. The key to success is perseverance and patience when doing deep breathing and exercises. Of course, don’t forget to relax.
My father died three years ago.
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