Thérèse Coffey ends BBC interview after question about smoking
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The three-time Academy Award winner, Walter Brennan died at the age of 80 because of damaged air sacs within his lungs. Experts at Johns Hopkins Medicine cautioned that emphysema (damaged air sacs in the lungs) “occurs very slowly over time”. Belonging to a group of lung diseases called chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema is mostly caused by smoking.
Other contributing factors can include air pollution, irritating fumes and dust, and a rare inherited condition called “early onset pulmonary emphysema”.
During the early stages of lung damage, Brennan is likely to have experienced:
- Rapid breathing
- Shortness of breath
- Sputum production
Once emphysema develops, “there is no way to repair or regrow the damaged lung tissue”, the experts cautioned.
Anybody who is told they have emphysema are strongly advised to stop smoking immediately.
Resources to help stop smoking include:
- NHS Quit Smoking app
- NHS Stop Smoking Services
- Smokefree National Helpline on 0300 123 1044.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
The NHS says COPD is a “common condition” that mainly affects middle-aged smokers.
“The breathing problems tend to get gradually worse over time,” the NHS warns.
Typically dismissed as a “smoker’s cough”, a persistent chesty cough with phlegm is a sign of COPD.
So too is breathlessness when active, frequent chest infections, and persistent wheezing.
“Without treatment, the symptoms usually get progressively worse,” the NHS adds.
“There may also be periods when they get suddenly worse, known as a flare-up or exacerbation.”
Treatment is best started sooner than later, before the lungs become significantly damaged.
In fact, anybody over the age of 35 who has symptoms of COPD, who smoke – or used to smoke – should see their doctor.
Treatment includes not smoking, using inhalers and medication to make breathing easier, and pulmonary rehabilitation.
Pulmonary rehabilitation is a specialised programme of exercise and education.
For a very small number of people, surgery or a lung transplant could be an option.
While treatment can be successful for some people, COPD can lead to “life-threatening problems” for others.
Nowadays the health ramifications for smoking are well-documented, but in 1894 – when Brennan was born – the habit was seen as glamorous.
Dying on September 21, 1974, the adverse complications due to smoking had only just been put into the spotlight.
Walter Brennan starred in At Gunpoint, which will show on Film4, on Wednesday, September 14 at 4.55pm.
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