How old are your lungs?

Patient Expert

I recently read an article where researchers conducted a study to discover if people who learned the relative age of their lungs after years of smoking were more likely to quit after having that knowledge.

It turns out that indeed, people who discovered they had the lungs of a person 20 years older were more likely to be motivated to quit smoking. They were also more likely to still be smoke-free when the researchers followed up a year later.

According to an article in the New York Times, smokers who were told their "lung age" after participating in a lung capacity test were more than twice as likely to quit as a control group. And even people who were told their lungs were still at normal capacity were more likely to quit since they were encouraged by the news that it was not too late.

Smokers age faster than nonsmokers, both on the inside and on the outside. Wrinkles and reduced lung function are two areas that are relatively easy to see and measure. But there are so many other ways we hurt ourselves when we smoke.

Every organ and every cell in our bodies is affected by cigarette smoke. When we quit, it can take more than 10 years for our bodies to recover to the health level of those who have never smoked. The good news is that recovery begins immediately and the most dramatic benefits happen in the first few months and years.

Having a lung function test is a great way of discovering where we stand on lung damage from smoking. I must say that if this idea had occurred to me while I was still smoking, I would probably have had the test. I was always curious about whether I had caused any damage yet from smoking and at the same time I was also fearful of learning if the news was bad.

Today I am free of the demon nicotine and I love knowing that my lungs are getting younger every year. I am now in my forties, yet I feel stronger and more energetic than I ever did in my twenties. If I had kept on smoking, I know that by now I would probably look fifty-something on the outside and my lungs and other organs would probably be pushing age 70. It's a good feeling to be good to myself and have the results be so positive both inside and out.