Smoking and vaping: NHS shows difference between the two
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Newhart, a comedian famous for his deadpan humour, recently played the role of Professor Proton in The Big Bang Theory spinoff series, Young Sheldon. Over the years, he has featured in the credits of dozens of films, including the Christmas favourite Elf back in 2003. During the height of Newhart’s career, a bad habit he had for years caught up with him and he was diagnosed with a potentially life threatening disease.
Back in 1985, a strange thing happened to the star: he developed a nose bleed that wouldn’t stop.
When he was admitted to the hospital at the time, Newhart learned that the symptom was a sign of a sinister condition. He had secondary polycythaemia that was caused by his excessive smoking.
“My realization about the evils of nicotine came one summer day in 1985 when I developed a nosebleed that just wouldn’t stop,” the star wrote in his 2006 book I Shouldn’t Even Be Doing This! And Other Thing That Strike Me as Funny.
Secondary polycythaemia is when the body overproduces red blood cells. The blood becomes thicker and has a harder time travelling to the organs.
It can lead to blurred vision, high blood pressure and blood clots.
Smoking causes the disease because it prevents the blood from doing its job of delivering oxygen to the body while triggering the body to create the proteins linked to the production of new red blood cells.
Newhart wrote: “In nearly every photograph we have of me in the fifties, sixties, and seventies, I’m holding a cigarette. I always smoked onstage … I was so addicted that if I woke up in the night to go to the bathroom, I’d light a cigarette for the walk.”
According to a study published in 2019, smoking leads to the expression of the EPOR gene.
This gene provides the instructions to make a protein called erythropoietin, which itself directs the production of the red blood cells in the bone marrow.
Newhart was scared by the onset of his condition, which can increase the risk of stroke, and quit smoking aged 56.
In the book, he reports how it only took him a few weeks to recover from secondary polycythaemia.
Quitting smoking may be what has also helped the star reach his old age with relative ease.
Long-term smokers are said to have their life expectancy cut short by around 10 years compared to a non-smoker, explains the NHS.
That’s partly because smoking increases the risk of many cancers, and obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and heart disease.
What are the symptoms of secondary polycythaemia
Tiredness, dizziness, and discomfort in your tummy may be signs that you have the disease.
Other signs include the following, as listed by the NHS:
- Red skin on your face, hands and feet
Itchy skin after a bath or shower
Secondary polycythaemia is distinct from primary polycythaemia whereby there are problems in the cells within the bone marrow which are transformed into red blood cells.
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