Stopping smoking will not only help your lungs, but also your brain!

For COPD patients and others that use supplemental oxygen to help them to breathe, quitting smoking is hugely important to stop further lung damage, help slow the disease down and reduces the danger of smoking near oxygen cylinders. 2016 is going to be the year to stop smoking as part of a new campaign to try and combat lung disease. However if you stop smoking it is not only your lungs that you will help but your brain will benefit too.
It’s never too late to quit, even if you’re in your 70’s, there is still a chance for a noticeable recovery. For light smokers the damage can be reversed in a few weeks and for heavier long-term smokers it may take anywhere up to 25years for full recovery but every little helps.
The cerebral cortex, which is responsible for memory, attention, awareness and language naturally thins with age but this process is hugely accelerated by smoking. Scientists at the University of Edinburgh found that even though smoking thins the outer layer of the brain and increases the risk of memory problems and dementia, it is reversible. The damage that cigarettes cause to the brain can start reversing as soon as you give up the habit. Even when quitting later in life there is still a chance of reversing the harmful damage done to your brain.
In the study the thickness of the cerebral cortex was measured and important thinking skills were tested on smokers, non-smokers and ex-smokers. Those who had never smoked tended to have a thicker cortex than the smokers but ex-smokers also had a thicker cortex than those who had continued with the habit. Also more importantly those who had kicked the habit some time ago seemed to have a thicker cortex than more recent quitters, showing that there had been continuous recovery.
Professor James Goodwin from AgeUK talks about how we all know that smoking is bad for our heart and lungs but it is also important that we know it is also bad for our brain. Avoiding smoking offers the best protection against the risk of brain decline, dementia and other cognitive disease but this study gives smokers a new hope that by quitting smoking even later in life can still allow our bodies to start to heal itself.
“With research suggesting that older people’s fear of developing dementia outweighs that of cancer, it is important we inform people about the simple steps they can take to safeguard against this horrible and distressing disease.”
COPD patients already have many health issues related to their condition but the fear of cancer and dementia adding to them is concerning for patients. Knowing that by quitting smoking you can help to reverse damage to your brain, on top of preventing further damage to your heart and lungs, reduce the risk of combustion with oxygen cylinders and concentrators and halting progression of the respiratory disease you’re suffering from is a huge incentive for people to encourage them to give up smoking.

Supplemental oxygen can potentially improve eyesight

improving eyesightDiabetes can cause many health problems for sufferers and one of these is macular oedema. This is a fluid build-up in the part of the eye that is responsible for central vision. Diabetic macular oedema affects up to 10 percent of all patients with diabetes. It is caused when high blood sugar eventually causes damage in blood vessels of the retina and a decrease in the supply of oxygen and nutrients. When the retina experiences low oxygen levels it releases vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and other substances that cause the retinal blood vessels to become leaky and stimulates the growth of new blood vessels. The leakage of fluid into the macular causes it to become thickened and results in vision loss. Many patients have laser treatment to try and correct it, however many patients find that they still suffer persistent oedema.
A pilot study has monitored diabetic patients breathing supplemental oxygen through a nasal cannula and found that it helped to reduce fluid build-up and swelling and in some cases improved their visual acuity fairly dramatically. Patients were given 4 litres per minute of oxygen via a nasal cannula and asked to use it continuously for three months day and night.
After the three months it was found that there was an average 50% decreases in the excess thickness of the macular, the excess thickness of the fovea (responsible for sharpness of vision) and in the macular volume. Also a third had improved visual acuity with the ability to read two lines higher on an eye chart.
In addition it was noted that when the supplemental oxygen therapy was discontinued the subject’s vision slowly worsened. However in those where their eyes had returned to within the normal range whilst on supplemental oxygen, their eyesight did not worsen but remained within the normal ranges once the supplemental oxygen was stopped.
It appears that supplemental oxygen reduces the production of VEGF, which reduces the amount of leaking in retinal vessels and therefore lessens the severity of macular oedema.
Researchers believe that this could be used in conjunction with eye laser treatment to improve oxygenation to the retina to provide long-term eye stability. The oxygen treatment could reduce the thickness of the retina prior to laser treatment in order to make the laser treatment more effective and long-lasting, for when supplemental oxygen is ceased. There are also oral drugs being developed that block receptors for VEGF and could be used in conjunction with supplemental oxygen to help improve results.

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