Maybe you’re following the debate about legalizing marijuana and want to do a little research of your own. In California, it’s now OK to grow six plants per household for your personal use. And if you just want to try a few puffs, for heaven’s sake, there’s something to be said for inhaling.
Here’s what it is: Cannabis can relax you; soothe your pain; heighten your awareness; make you sleepy; make you hungry; or make you mistakenly think what you’ve just said is positively brilliant. But all the research indicates it won’t give you lung cancer, whereas tobacco smoking is very bad for your health. And that’s all I have to say about weed. Today.
What I do want to talk about is the damage that hot nicotine and tar do to your lungs, which brings me to an article I just read in the online British Medical Journal about a way to make quitting a lot easier.
It doesn’t involve pills, patches or hypnosis. Simply have your doctor or community health center give you a lung function test. Discuss the results afterward; that part is crucial. You’ll learn about your true “lung age” in a clear and understandable way. With that new knowledge may come a greater ability to quit.
In the study, significant numbers of smokers who had lung function tests – using a spirometer to measure how fast and how much air a person is able to breathe – were then motivated to quit smoking. And the numbers were much greater than expected.
Why did taking the test matter? The researchers speculate that smokers who found out their lung function was “normal” realized that they were lucky, and this made it easier to quit while they were ahead. Others who learned that their lung function was poor realized that more smoking would only make matters worse, and that motivated them to stop.
In both cases, the real gain comes from taking control of your health. The test is a tool to help you make a clear-eyed assessment, and from that place of understanding, it’s easier to do the smart thing, the hard thing, the healthy thing. In other words: Knowledge is power.
So, if the pills, patches, chew toys and disapproving stares of the people hurrying by the glass smoking cages in airports haven’t worked, get a lung function test.
Who knows? All your resistance to change may finally go up in smoke.
Knowledge Is Power II: When To Question Authority
Some time ago I had a cough that persisted, so I started to investigate. That involved going to doctors, having scans and images and even pulmonary function tests like the one above. And then there was the fun experience of having a tube inserted into my nose and down my throat.
I’m happy to say everything checked out. No lung cancer. No COPD. No allergies. Nothing bad. And no acid reflux. But that didn’t stop this handsome young specialist from telling me to start taking Nexium. “It might help,” he said. “It might help?” I said.
“Nexium is a proton-pump inhibitor,” he said. “It’s one of the most popular drugs we have. I don’t know if it will help your cough, but I suggest you give it a try.”
“Are there any side effects?” I asked, shamelessly setting a trap for the doctor, who had come so highly recommended.
“Nothing to worry about,” he said.
“No side effects?”
“No. And it might help.”
I didn’t take the drug, and I never saw that guy again. I should have reported him to the principal. While other people are doing crossword puzzles, I amuse myself with news about medical issues, and I know very well that proton-pump inhibitors have serious side effects. They’ve been linked to a higher risk of bone fractures, pneumonia and heart problems, and recently, a study in JAMA Internal Medicine reported that the use of these drugs is associated with a 20 to 50 percent increase in the risk of developing chronic kidney disease. Twenty to 50 percent!
I wouldn’t dare tell you what drugs to take or refuse, but I will say that Americans take more drugs per capita than other people in the world because our doctors prescribe them. I won’t say take medical advice willy-nilly, but I will say be vigilant. Do your homework. Question authority.
Marilynn Preston is a healthy lifestyle expert, well-being coach and Emmy-winning producer. She is the creator of Energy Express, the longest-running syndicated fitness column in the country. She has a website, marilynnpreston.com, and welcomes reader questions, which can be sent to MyEnergyExpress@aol.com.