A new study has found that active smoking and exposure to passive smoking during childhood, adolescence, and even young adulthood increase the risk of developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a condition that damages the lungs and makes it much harder for people to breathe.
Researchers from the University of Copenhagen (Denmark) inform that roughly half the COPD cases that medical professionals encounter are found in people whose lungs aged normally but started adulthood with poor breathing capacity, and thus led to the development of other, more serious problems.
Dr. Peter Lange, lead author and professor over at the University of Copenhagen’s (Denmark) department of health gave a statement to Reuters Health informing that lung capacity is typically maxed out somewhere between the ages of 20 and 30, but that smoking (active or passive) can stunt their development.
“If you then observe them for 20 or 30 years, you find that their risk for having COPD will be 3 or 4 times greater than if they had normal lung function as young adults”.
He went on to stress that it is very important to achieve normal growth in lung function during early adulthood if people are to avoid serious risk in the future. Some of the measures of prevention he listed include not smoking during teenage years, treating asthma even in childhood, and reduce one’s exposure to damaging agents such as passive smoking.
Dr. Ralph Panos, chief of medicine from Cincinnati VA Medical Center, is an expert who was not involved in the study, but gave a statement of his own, saying that the study proved that there are several ways to develop chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Traditionally speaking, doctors have believed that COPD a sign of accelerate aging, caused by an unexplainable, quick decline in lung capacity. But the new study has revealed that this decline in lung capacity, which researchers measure with the help of a test that looks at forced expiratory volume (FEV-1), or how much air an individual can quickly exhale, is only responsible for half the cases encountered by professionals.
The other trajectory is related to how lung function is subatomicaly developed during childhood and adolescence.
For their study, the researchers looked at data gathered from three (3) separate population studies, and split subject into two (2) groups – one had starting FEV-1s that were above 80 percent (80%) of the expected lung capacity, the other had starting FEV-1s that were below 80 percent (80%).
Twenty-two (22) years later, the results showed that 26 percent (26%) of the subjects that started the study with a low FEV-1 did end up developing COPD, while just 7 percent (7%) of the subjects that started the study with a high FEV-1 suffered the same fate.
COPD is one of the most often cited causes of death today, with active smoking responsible for roughly 85 percent (85%) of all cases.
The study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine, and the research team hopes that their findings will aid in the development of better tests that can help assess better treatments.
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