Are your lungs older than you?
Smoking makes your lungs age faster than the rest of your body. You can find out how old your lungs are at www.lungclock.com or by downloading the lungclock iphone app.
Lung function deteriorates slowly as we age. However, it deteriorates more quickly in smokers. (1) Smoke from cigarettes causes inflammation in the lungs, narrowing the breathing tubes and destroys lung tissue.
One in 4 smokers will develop COPD or smokers’ lungs (2) with increasing breathlessness, chest tightness, cough and phlegm. COPD sufferers are prone to a poor quality of life, frequent chest infections and hospital admissions and ultimately need an oxygen bottle to breathe. (3)
COPD usually begins after about 20 years of smoking, typically around 35-40 years. COPD affects one in seven Australians aged 40 or over and about half of the people with COPD are currently undiagnosed. (3)
COPD is diagnosed with a simple breathing test (spirometry) done by your doctor. Early diagnosis is important as the damage done to the lungs cannot be repaired. However, if you quit smoking the rate of future deterioration slows down to the level of a non-smoker.
COPD is the fourth commonest cause of death worldwide. To find out more about COPD, visit the Australian Lung Foundation website.
1) Fletcher C, Peto R. The natural history of chronic airflow obstruction. British Medical Journal 1977
2) Van Schayck CP. Detecting patients at a high risk of developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in general practice: cross sectional case finding study. British Medical Journal 2002
3) McKenzie DK. The COPD-X Plan: Australian and New Zealand Guidelines for the management of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease V2.30, 2011
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