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The Impact of Vaping

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cigarette smoking is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States. Smoking causes more than 480,000 deaths each year in the United States which is approximately one in five deaths. Read on to learn more about e-cigarettes and how their use continues to rapidly escalate in the USA, particularly among youth.

What is Vaping?

Vaping is the act of inhaling and exhaling the aerosol that is produced by an electronic vapor device when it heats up its liquid ingredients. These products are sometimes referred to as electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, and “vapes.” The contents of most vaping liquids (e-liquids) include nicotine, flavoring chemicals, and other chemicals. Some vaping products are modified to contain marijuana or THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.

What is in an E-cigarette?

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not currently have any regulations or standards as to what goes into e-cigarettes. While there is no set ingredients list, what we do know is that they contain several toxins and chemicals like standard cigarettes.

Common e-cigarettes contain:

  • Nicotine- found in cigarettes and affects adolescent brain development
  • Propylene glycol- used in antifreeze
  • Acrolein- used to kill weeds
  • Heavy metals- such as nickel, tin, and lead
  • Benzene- found in car exhaust
  • Various other carcinogen chemicals linked to cancer

What is EVALI?

The effects of cigarette smoke have always been a longstanding health concern, and new conditions have arisen due to the increased amount of people turning to e-cigarettes and vaping. The CDC, along with state and local health departments, is seeing an outbreak of e-cigarette or vaping, product use-associated lung injury (EVALI).

Those reported with EVALI can present with symptoms of dyspnea, which is an uncomfortable sensation or awareness of breathing or needing to breathe, cough, and have an abnormally low concentration of oxygen in the blood.

Other symptoms of EVALI can include:

  • Chest pain
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Weight loss

Impact on the Lungs

Smoking of any kind can lead to lung disease due to the damage caused by inhaling irritants contained in cigarettes and e-cigarettes. The small air sacs, called alveoli, in your lungs fill with smoke and debris. Over time, the inhaled smoke destroys your lung tissue and makes it difficult to transport oxygen to your blood vessels, leaving you short of breath.

Inhaled irritants can cause an increase in the amount and thickness of mucus you produce. When you smoke, the cells that produce mucus grow rapidly and your lungs are not able to keep up with the production. The inability to clear the mucus in your airways can lead to infections.

Additionally, nicotine and other chemicals in e-cigarettes are being tied to increasing heart rate and blood pressure and the risk of heart attack and stroke, as well as inflammation, asthma, and wheezing.

There are still many unknowns regarding the use of e-cigarettes, the chemicals they include, and the physical effects that can result from long term use. There is, however, emerging clinical information that suggests a strong link to chronic lung conditions and asthma as well as cardiovascular disease.

A New Generation of Smokers: The Statistics

Among youth, e-cigarettes have become more popular than traditional tobacco products. According to a September 2020 CDC morbidity and mortality report, 19.6% of high school students (3.02 million) and 4.7% of middle school students (550,000) reported current e-cigarette use.

Among current e-cigarette users, 38.9% of high school students and 20.0% of middle school students reported using e-cigarettes on 20 or more of the past 30 days. Daily use of e-cigarettes was reported by 22.5% of high school users and 9.4% of middle school users.

START with a Plan to Quit

As for any current tobacco user, smoking cessation is key to stopping the progressive damage caused using any type of tobacco, e-cigarette, or vaping product. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has developed an acronym to help you kickstart your plans to quit.

S – Set a quit date

T – Tell Family & Friends you plan to quit

A – Anticipate and plan for challenges

R – Remove cigarettes & all tobacco products from your home, work, and car

T – Talk with your healthcare provider

Takeaway

It is very difficult to quit vaping, and youth are especially vulnerable to the addictive pull of nicotine. While some may be able to quit unaided, many young people who try to quit will experience withdrawal symptoms, including anxiety, irritability, difficulty concentrating and loss of appetite. The most effective approach to helping a young person quit is through counseling, family, and peer support. It is also important to address potential underlying mental or emotional problems that might contribute to the desire to vape or use other addictive substances.

Fact Check Resources:

https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/sgr/50th-anniversary/pdfs/fs_smoking_overall_health_508.pdf

https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/basic_information/e-cigarettes/severe-lung-disease.html

https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6937e1.htm

Understanding A COPD Diagnosis: Key Facts

If you or someone you know has recently been diagnosed with COPD, you may be wondering what exactly that means. COPD stands for Chronic Obstructive Respiratory Disease. COPD is composed of different respiratory diseases that cause troubled breathing.

The term COPD can be used to describe a singular respiratory disorder, or more than one. COPD encompasses chronic bronchitis, emphysema, asthma, and some forms of bronchiectasis, as well as any combination of the four. According to the American Lung Association, over 16 million Americans are diagnosed with COPD as of October 2020, but millions more suffer from it without being diagnosed.

The group of diseases in which COPD refers to cause airflow obstruction and trouble with breathing. COPD is chronic, meaning it is long-lasting and constantly present. Each individual case of COPD is different, and some cases are more severe than others. The most common cases of COPD include symptoms of both chronic bronchitis and emphysema.

COPD Explained

What is Happening in Your Body?

Your particular case of COPD will determine what is happening within your body. Cases that include chronic bronchitis will cause swelling and increased mucus production in the lung airways, or bronchial tubes. This causes breathing to become more difficult since your airways are inflamed and narrowed with mucus blocking them. Cases including emphysema cause destruction of the air sacs, or alveoli. The air sacs are responsible for oxygen exchange within the lungs, and they lose their elasticity by becoming destroyed. This causes breathing difficulty since the loss of elasticity leads to air being trapped inside the air sacs, making it harder to get oxygen in and carbon dioxide out.

Symptoms of COPD

Some of the most common symptoms include:

  • Increased shortness of breath
  • Frequent coughing (with or without mucus)
  • Wheezing
  • Tightness in the chest

Remember, not all cases of COPD will have the same symptoms. Other symptoms include frequent respiratory infections, lack of energy and unintended weight loss.

What Causes COPD?

COPD is mainly caused by inhaling lung irritants, and smoking is the #1 cause. People, however, do not realize that other potential lung irritants that can also cause COPD include exposure to air pollution, fumes, chemicals, secondhand smoke and dust particles. Oftentimes, inhaling these irritants can be work-related. Working in construction, mining or welding are examples of occupations that increase the risk of obtaining COPD due to increased exposure to lung irritants. A rare genetic factor called alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency is also known to cause COPD and is passed from parents to their children.

Comorbid conditions seem to be more common in people with COPD than in people with other medical problems. These conditions may include:

  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Osteoporosis
  • Depression
  • Arthritis
  • Sleep Apnea
  • Cancer
  • Other medical problems

One reason for these additional problems may relate to the lung inflammation that occurs in people with COPD.

What is a Flare-Up?

A COPD flare-up, or exacerbation, is when your symptoms are considerably worse than usual. Some can be treated at home, but more severe flare-ups can require a visit to the hospital. Flare-ups are triggered by further lung inflammation. This can be from exposure to smoke, pollution or allergens as well as contracting the flu or pneumonia. Symptoms to look out for include:

  • Shortness of breath without physical activity
  • Increased mucus
  • Excessive coughing or wheezing
  • Lower blood  oxygen saturation level than normal

Those symptoms can usually be treated at home with antibiotics or inhalers, but the following list of symptoms require professional help.

  • Increased heart rate
  • Being unable to catch your breath
  • Lips or fingernails turn blue or gray
  • Treatments are not working

Does COPD Have a Cure?

COPD is a progressive disease, which means that it gets worse over time. Unfortunately, there is no cure, but luckily many treatment options are available to improve the quality of life. Bronchodilator and steroid medications are available through inhalers to relax the lungs, as well as oral anti-inflammatory medications. Oxygen therapy is also a popular treatment option to help patients achieve healthy blood oxygen levels, which is difficult to maintain when you have COPD. Oxygen therapy allows you to still be active and live a normal life while getting the oxygen into your body that you need, especially with the availability of portable oxygen concentrators. Pulmonary rehabilitation is another option for those with COPD. It helps patients adjust to and get educated about their conditions. Pulmonary rehabilitation programs often provide support and exercise training as well as breathing techniques that are personalized based on specific patient needs.

Living with COPD

Activities of daily living, such as completing chores or bathing, can be harder to accomplish due to shortness of breath. You may have to take constant breaks to catch your breath. Activities will take your energy to perform, so you will get physically exhausted more easily. Living with COPD means slowing down in order to control your breathing and to prevent tiring yourself too quickly. Living with COPD has its challenges, but modifying some activities of daily living can improve your quality of life and help you better manage your disease.

Takeaway

Although COPD is a life-long condition, you can still live a fulfilling life with the help of treatment options, although you may have to slow your pace. COPD takes a toll on your body, so taking care of yourself, monitoring your symptoms and following your doctor’s orders are top priorities.

Sources

https://www.cdc.gov/copd/features/copd-symptoms-diagnosis-treatment.html?CDC_AA_refVal=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.cdc.gov%2Ffeatures%2Fcopd-awareness-month%2Findex.html

https://www.copdfoundation.org/What-is-COPD/Understanding-COPD/What-is-COPD.aspx

https://www.hse.gov.uk/copd/causes.htm

https://www.lung.org/lung-health-diseases/lung-disease-lookup/copd/learn-about-copd#:~:text=With%20COPD%2C%20the%20airways%20in,the%20waste%20gas%20carbon%20dioxide.

https://medlineplus.gov/copd.html

https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/copd

https://www.nps.org.au/consumers/chronic-obstructive-pulmonary-disease-copd-explained

COPD Awareness: Understanding the Diagnosis and Stages

Awareness

Being told you have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) can be overwhelming. COPD is a progressive disease that obstructs the airflow, making it difficult to breathe and get enough oxygen into your lungs. According to the Chest Foundation, COPD is the third leading cause of death in the US and impacts roughly 24 million Americans.

COPD is made up of two diseases; emphysema accounts for 33 percent, and chronic bronchitis accounts for the remaining 64 percent of diagnosed cases. Emphysema occurs due to the damage that happens to the air sacs in the lungs. These air sacs overfill with air and lose their elasticity which makes it hard to exhale the excess air. In chronic bronchitis, the airways become swollen and inflamed and produce large amounts of mucus. The increased production of mucus obstructs the airways, narrows them, and makes it hard to breathe.

The Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD) has classified four stages in which your healthcare provider will determine what stage of COPD you are in. This will help them determine the best treatment plan for you.

Symptoms

The first part of diagnosing your condition will consist of assessing symptoms. It will be important to provide your healthcare provider with the symptoms you have been having that have led you to seek medical attention. Common COPD symptoms include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Chronic cough
  • New or increased wheezing
  • Coughing up phlegm or and increase in phlegm

Risk Factors

It will be important for your healthcare provider to know if you have had or are currently exposed to any risk factors. Risk factors could include things such as:

  • Genetic factors
  • Abnormalities from birth
  • Tobacco smoke
  • Smoke from cooking/heating fuels
  • Dust
  • Vapor
  • Fumes or other inhaled chemicals

Spirometry

Spirometry will play a large role in your COPD diagnosis. Once you have sought medical care for COPD related symptoms and you have discussed your risk factors, the next step will be for your healthcare provider to order spirometry.

Spirometry is a common breathing test used to see how well your lungs are working by taking a few test measurements while you breathe into a machine. Spirometry will measure the air you breathe in, the air you breathe out, and how quickly you breathe out.

One of the initial spirometry tests that will be performed is called the Forced Vital Capacity (FVC) measurement or the amount of forced air that you can exhale and inhale into the machine. An equally important measurement is the calculation based on the Forced Expiratory Volume in One Second (FEV1). This is the amount of air you can breathe out of the lungs in the first one second of forced expiration.

Your FEV1 is based on factors including your age, sex, height, and ethnicity.  Your healthcare provider will compare your results to a healthy individual and any deviations in measurements are what will lead to a sign of what might be causing your problems.

You will be given a breathing treatment with medication to help open your lungs such as a bronchodilator before you start the test. This is to ensure your lungs are performing at their best.

After your test is completed, your healthcare provider will review the measurements and see which of the four GOLD stages of COPD you fall into based on your results. This testing will serve as a follow-up assessment to determine what other therapies can work for you and to monitor you as the disease progresses.

Four Stages of GOLD

Your spirometry results, particularly your FEV1, will fall into one of the four GOLD classifications of severity which is how your COPD stage will be determined.

GOLD 1
  • Mild Stage, Stage I COPD
  • FEV1  greater than/or equal to 80% of predicted test results compared to a healthy individual
  • In this stage, you will likely experience very mild symptoms
GOLD 2
  • Moderate Stage, Stage II COPD
  • FEV1 between 50 – 79% of predicted test results compared to a healthy individual
  • Symptoms include shortness of breath with activity, cough, and sputum production
GOLD 3
  • Severe Stage, Stage III COPD
  • FEV1  between 30 – 49% of predicted test results compared to a healthy individual
  • In this stage, you may experience shortness of breath, fatigue, and a lower tolerance to physical as well as more frequent COPD exacerbations
GOLD 4
  • Very Severe, Stage III COPD sometimes referred to as End-Stage COPD
  • FEV1 less than 30 % of predicted test results compared to a healthy individual
  • In this stage, you may find that your quality of life is significantly decreased, and you may experience severe and life-threatening exacerbations

Takeaway

COPD is a chronic disease that cannot be cured and as time goes on, the disease progresses. Certain treatments and lifestyle changes can help you manage your symptoms and improve your quality of life. It is important to seek out a healthcare provider who will work with you to improve your breathing.

Sources:

https://foundation.chestnet.org/lung-health-a-z/chronic-obstructive-pulmonary-disease-copd/

https://www.who.int/respiratory/copd/burden/en/

https://goldcopd.org/

Seven Steps to Help You Quit Smoking Cigarettes

Smoking is not only a physical addiction, but also a psychological habit. The temporary high that smokers get from tobacco is extremely addictive.

Smoking severely damages your lungs, specifically your alveoli which are tiny sacs found within the lungs. Smoking is the #1 cause of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). According to American Lung Association, over 16.4 million people are diagnosed with COPD, yet millions more have COPD without being aware of it. Smokers also have a greater chance of getting cancer, especially in the lungs.

 

Based on information collected from the US Department of Health and Human Services, cigarette smoking is responsible for over 480,000 fatalities in the United States every year. Over 41,000 of these deaths are caused by exposure to secondhand smoke. To put these statistics in perspective, that is 1 in 5 deaths yearly, or 1,300 deaths per day. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, smokers’ lifespans are typically 10 years shorter than nonsmokers. Below are helpful steps to quit smoking.

Step 1: Realize Why You’re Quitting

This reason is usually health related, and quitting smoking will help you live a healthier and longer life. Another reason might be stopping for your loved ones. Living to see your kids or grandchildren grow up is a great motivator to extend your lifespan by quitting smoking. Whatever your reason may be, quitting will give you more time to do the things you love, and will eliminate the anxiety that comes with wondering when you will get to smoke next. You will look better, smell better, and most importantly feel better after quitting.

Step 2: Tell Others

Sharing that you are planning to quit smoking with your loved ones will give you the encouragement and support you need to stop. They will be able to hold you accountable for you dedication to quitting and can be constant reminders of your reason to quit.

Step 3: Get Rid of Cigarettes and Paraphernalia

Dispose of all cigarettes, ashtrays, lighters, or anything that reminds you of smoking. Not having easy access to cigarettes would cost you a trip to the store to buy another pack, and will remind you of your reason for quitting.

Step 4: Consider Alternatives

Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) is a safe and efficient way to help smokers with nicotine withdrawal. NRT gives you the nicotine that your body is craving in a form other than a cigarette. Cigarettes contain thousands of chemicals when inhaled, including toxic ones found in rat poison and nail polish remover. Although nicotine is an addictive chemical, just taking in nicotine is much safer than smoking cigarettes. The more cigarettes you smoked per day, the higher dose of nicotine you will need starting out.

There are many options when it comes to NRT, and one of the most common is a nicotine patch. There are also other options such as gum, inhalers, nasal spray and lozenges. Some NRT is available over-the-counter, but others you need a prescription for. The goal of NRT is to gradually decrease your dose until you can get off nicotine altogether.

Other types of NRT can be prescribed in pill form as well. These do not contain any nicotine, but they work by cutting cravings and block nicotine receptors in your brain. Talk to your doctor to determine which quitting aid is best for you.

Joining a support group can be very helpful to connect with others that are struggling with the same problems. Support groups can either be online or in person.

Nicotine addiction rehabilitation centers are also available if you feel that you will not be able to quit on your own. These rehab centers offer full-time help along with other people who are going through the same thing as you. There are multiple options available, such as outpatient and residential programs.

Step 5: Keep Busy

You may be irritable, anxious and experience headaches for a few days after quitting suddenly, so keep this in mind if you are around others. Use this time to grow as a person by trying new things, picking up new hobbies and filling your time with activities. This will keep your mind occupied on things other than the need to smoke. Below is a list of ideas to keep yourself entertained.

  • Cook or bake
  • Shoot photography
  • Birdwatch
  • Exercise
  • Call a friend or family member
  • Adopt a pet
  • Try a new food or restaurant
  • Read a book, write or paint
  • Garden
  • Take a class to learn something new

Remember that half of quitting smoking is the psychological aspect.

Step 6: Know and Avoid Your Triggers

Realize what triggers you to smoke a cigarette. Triggers can range from smelling cigarette smoke to finishing a meal, but everyone has different triggers. Avoid the triggers when you can, but it’s a given that not all will be avoidable. For example, if your routine was to wake up and smoke with a morning cup of coffee, go to a coffee shop instead of making your own. This way you won’t be tempted because you can’t smoke inside.

What To Do if You’re Triggered

If you’re thinking about getting more cigarettes, go to a public indoor place such as the mall or a museum where smoking is prohibited instead. This will shift your focus off cigarettes for the time being.

If it’s the feel of the cigarette in your mouth that you are craving, have some gum or mints on hand to fight this urge and keep your mouth busy. Having a glass of water around at all times can be beneficial to drink since your body was used to the motion of moving your hand to your mouth and back.

Step 7: Reap the Benefits

By not smoking anymore, you are saving money which you can use to treat yourself for your hard work. You are also improving your quality of life by having more energy to perform your daily acts of living.

Quitting now will prevent any more damage from being done to your body. Even if you have been smoking for 40 years, you will be able to gain a great portion of your health back.

The American Cancer Society suggests that not smoking for just 12 hours will return your carbon monoxide levels to normal. Around 3 months after, circulation improves, and you will have better lung function. Anytime between 1 and 9 months after quitting, your shortness of breath will decrease along with your coughing. After a year, you will cut your risk of heart disease in half. The longer you go without smoking, the more benefits will come, such as lowering your risk of cancers and diseases.

We wish you the best of luck on your journey to quitting. It may not be easy, but quitting smoking is a great accomplishment and something to be extremely proud of. You are doing this to set yourself up for a healthier lifestyle, and taking this initiative shows how strong of a person you are.

 

Sources:

https://www.addictionsandrecovery.org/quit-smoking/how-to-quit-smoking-plan.htm

https://www.lung.org/lung-health-diseases/lung-disease-lookup/copd/learn-about-copd#:~:text=COPD%20is%20the%20third%20leading,disease%20without%20even%20knowing%20it.

https://www.cancer.org/healthy/stay-away-from-tobacco/benefits-of-quitting-smoking-over-time.html

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK179276/pdf/Bookshelf_NBK179276.pdf

https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMsa1211128

https://www.rehabs.com/getting-help-for-nicotine-addiction/

 

 

Balanced Diet & Nutritional Tips for Lung Health

If you suffer from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or other respiratory health conditions, you may notice that eating certain foods may affect your breathing. Consuming a balanced diet with the right mix of nutrients can make breathing easier. Below are some general nutritional tips on foods that can help you.

How Does My Diet Relate to My Breathing?

Metabolism is the body’s process of changing food to fuel. Oxygen and food are the raw materials of the process, and energy and carbon dioxide are the finished products.

When our bodies metabolize simple carbohydrates, such as a slice of cake, we use more energy and therefore use up more oxygen. That process can leave us short of breath. Eating a diet with fewer simple carbohydrates and more healthy fats can help you breathe easier.

Nutritional Tips

The American Lung Association is a great resource for lung health & disease management. Some of their recommended guidelines for a balanced diet include:

  • Eat Complex Carbohydrates– such as whole-grain bread and pasta, vegetables, and beans
  • Limit Simple Carbohydrates– such as candy, cake, and soft drinks
  • Limit Foods that cause Bloating– foods such as legumes, cause gas and bloating making breathing difficult
  • Increase your Fiber– aim to eat 20-30 grams of fiber from foods such as nuts, seeds, or oatmeal
  • Eat High Protein Foods– such as grass-fed meats, eggs, milk, and fish such as salmon
  • Consume Healthy Fats– avocados, coconut and coconut oil, olives and olive oil, and cheese are great choices
  • Limit Saturated Fat- foods cooked in lard, vegetable oils, or fried foods should be avoided
  • Consider a Multivitamin– adding calcium and vitamin D could benefit COPD patients who take steroids
  • Limit Your Sodium– foods with too much sodium may cause swelling and increased blood pressure
  • Stay Hydrated– remember to drink 6-8 glasses (8 fl oz each) of water throughout your day and limit caffeine
  • Eat Smaller Meals– this helps the muscle under your lungs move freely and lets your lungs expand easily

Weigh In

Weighing yourself on a regular basis can help you and your health care provider keep track of how your diet is going. Various health complications could result from being underweight or overweight. When your body is well-nourished, it is better equipped to handle infections and respond to treatments.

The Takeaway

It is important to monitor your diet to ensure you are getting the right mixture of nutrients for your overall health, especially if you suffer from COPD. Keep in mind that the ideal diet will vary depending on a person’s weight and lifestyle and each person’s needs are different. Always talk to your health care provider or a registered dietitian nutritionist to help you get started with a balanced diet.