After a single cigarette, your lungs are likely to be fine, says the American Cancer Society. But if you’ve smoked more than a pack a day for many years, you can still have some of the symptoms of COPD.
“Even if you quit for a few days, the damage has already been done,” says Dr. Hsu. “You’ll still have airflow obstruction and you’ll still have some of the same symptoms.”
If you quit and then start smoking again, you may experience some of those symptoms again, says Dr. Hsu. But these symptoms tend to be short-lived and go away within a few weeks.
If you’re wondering what the normal results are after quitting smoking, here’s what the experts say:
How long you should quit smoking will depend on your age and current health.
“If you’re young and you’re healthy, you’re probably going to just quit for a short time and then you’re going to keep smoking,” says Dr. Hsu.
If you’re an older smoker, you probably need to quit for a longer period of time, he says.
How long you should stop smoking will depend on your health.
If you’re healthy, you probably won’t need to quit smoking for as long as your lungs are seriously damaged, say experts.
For those who are already in the early stages of COPD, quitting smoking can help improve their condition, says Dr. Hsu.
If you’re in the later stages of COPD, you may want to stop smoking to improve your health and to help slow the progression of the disease.
If you’re not sure if you have COPD, you should get checked out by a medical professional.
“Many of the symptoms of COPD are quite similar to other chronic lung diseases,” says Dr. Hsu. “A simple screening test can tell you if you have COPD.”
As you get older, you can develop COPD when you smoke.
COPD is one of the main causes of death in older people.
“Smoking is the most important risk factor for death for people over 65,” says Dr. Hsu.
How to Prevent COPD?
While you can’t prevent COPD, there are things you can do to help prevent lung damage and other health problems, says Dr. Hsu.
For example, there are many ways to quit smoking, including programs like the National Cancer Institute’s Stop-Smoking Program, he says.
You can also help prevent the damage to your lungs by regularly working with a doctor to help you quit smoking.
“If you’re not ready to quit smoking, you can still reduce your risk of lung damage,” says Dr. Hsu.
If you smoke or use other types of tobacco, you may want to talk to your doctor about how much nicotine is in cigarettes and how much of that you should be exposed to each day.
“You can’t control how much nicotine in the tobacco, but you can control how much of it you’re exposed to,” says Dr. Hsu.
You may also want to talk to your doctor about keeping your blood pressure under control.
“If you have blood pressure over 140/90, it’s a warning sign that you could have some COPD symptoms,” says Dr. Hsu.
If you smoke, you should talk to your doctor about quitting.
“It’s not possible to cure COPD, but there are treatments that can help decrease symptoms and help make people live longer,” says Dr. Hsu.
COPD is a preventable disease and once you have it, you can take steps to help yourself and to live a longer, healthier life.
If you think you have COPD, don’t delay in getting the help you need.
“If you have a COPD diagnosis, you should get it checked out by a doctor as soon as possible,” says Dr. Hsu.
Early screening can help you prevent the damage to your lungs and other organs that can develop when you smoke and can help you stop smoking.
What’s the Connection Between Cigarettes and Lung Cancer?
If you smoke, you may be more likely to develop lung cancer. There’s a link between smoking and lung cancer, and there’s no way to know whether you’ll get lung cancer if you smoke, says Dr. Hsu.
“But there are some people who have never smoked who get lung cancer because they were exposed to secondhand smoke, through friends or family or at a bar or restaurant,” he says.
For people exposed to secondhand smoke, there’s a slight increased risk of lung cancer, but it’s still fairly small, says Dr. Hsu.
What you can do to help prevent lung cancer is to avoid secondhand smoke, work to quit smoking, and get into a good smoking cessation program, he says.
If you smoke, talk to your doctor about quitting.
“If you’re a heavy smoker and you smoke about a pack a day, it’s probably going to raise your risk of lung cancer,” says Dr. Hsu.
What’s the Connection Between Smoking and Heart Disease?
Smoking and lung cancer have a connection, and so does smoking and heart disease, says Dr. Hsu.
If you have heart disease, you’re more likely to have lung cancer.
Heart disease can be caused by a variety of factors, including smoking, says Dr. Hsu.
However, if you have heart disease, and especially if you have heart failure, it’s going to raise your risk of dying from lung cancer, says Dr. Hsu.
“If you have heart disease, it’s important to quit smoking,” says Dr. Hsu.
Dr. Hsu recommends getting into a good smoking cessation program, if you’re a smoker.
“The sooner you quit smoking, the better,” he says.
Stopping smoking can also reduce your risk of heart disease and the risk of other lung diseases, including COPD.
If you’re a smoker, talk to your doctor about quitting.
The bottom line
Quitting smoking can help improve your COPD symptoms and slow the progression of the disease.
Smoking is a risk factor for lung cancer, heart disease, and many other lung diseases.
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