The worst death, I have ever witnessed in all my medical career was that of a man dying of lung cancer. I was in 2nd year of my medical college. That man’s eye was wide open, gasping for air. The cancer was filling up his lungs with fluid. He was being drowned by lung cancer.
India’s number-two killer, lung disease, claims the lives of about fourteen lakhs people each year. And, like our number- one domestic killer, heart disease, it’s largely preventable. Lung disease can come in many forms, but the three types that kill the most people are lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and asthma.
Lung cancer is our number- one cancer killer. Most of the four lakh lung cancer deaths every year are the direct result of smoking. COPD kills approximately one million people annually, from either damage to the walls of tiny air sacs in the lungs (emphysema) or from inflamed and thickened airways plugged with thick mucus (chronic bronchitis). Although there is no cure for the permanent lung scarring that COPD causes. Finally, asthma claims 3,000 lives each year, is one of the most common chronic diseases among children, yet it may be largely preventable.
Lung cancer is diagnosed about 679,421 times in male and 712,758 times in female each year in the India and causes more deaths annually than the next three cancers combined- those of the colon, breast, and pancreas. At any moment, nearly 53,728 Indians are living under lung cancer’s dark shadow. Unlike with heart disease, which has yet to be fully acknowledged as the direct result of an artery- clogging diet, there is widespread recognition that tobacco is by far the most common cause of lung cancer. According to the American Lung Association, smoking tobacco contributes to up to 90 percent of all lung cancer deaths. Men who smoke are twenty- three times more likely and women thirteen times more likely to develop lung cancer than non smoker. And smokers aren’t just harming themselves thousands of death each year have attributed to secondhand smoke. Nonsmokers have a 20-30 percent higher risk of developing lung cancer if they are regularly exposed to cigarette smoke.
Those warning labels on cigarette packs are everywhere now. If, despite all the evidence and warnings, you are currently a smoker, the most important step you can take is to stop. Now. Please. The benefits of quitting are immediate. Just twenty minutes after quitting, your heart rate and blood pressure drop. Within a few weeks, your blood circulation and lung function improve. Within a few months, the sweeper cells that help clean the lungs, remove mucus, and reduce the risk of infection start to regrow. And within a year of quitting, your smoking-related risk of coronary heart disease half that of current smokers. As I said earlier, the human body possesses a miraculous ability to heal itself as long as we don’t keep reinjuring it.
CHRONIC OBSTRUCTIVE PULMONARY DISEASE
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), such as emphysema and chronic bronchitis, is a condition that makes it difficult to breath and gets worse and worse over time. In addition to shortness of breath, COPD can cause severe coughing, excess mucus production, wheezing, and chest tightness. The disease affects more than twenty-four million Indians.
Smoking is far and away the leading cause of COPD, but other factors can contribute, such as prolonged exposure to air pollution. Unfortunately, there is no cure for COPD.
Asthma is an inflammatory disease characterized by recurring attacks of narrowed, swollen airways, causing shortness of breath, wheezing, and coughing. Asthma can start at any age, but it usually emerges during childhood. One of the most common chronic diseases in kids, asthma’s prevalence has been increasing year after year. In the India, twenty-five million people suffer from asthma and seven million of them are children.
Adolescents living in areas where more starchy foods, grains, vegetables, and nuts were consumed were significantly less likely to exhibit chronic symptoms of wheezing, allergic rhinoconjunctivitis (itchy eyes and runny nose), and allergic eczema. Boys and girls eating two or more servings of vegetables a day appear to have only half the odds of suffering from allergic eczema. Boys and girls eating two or more servings of vegetables a day appear to have only half the odds of suffering from allergic asthma. In general. the prevalence of asthma and respiratory symptoms reportedly appears to be lower among populations eating more foods of plants origin.
Foods of animal origin have been associated with increased asthma risk. A study of more than one thousand adults in India found that those who consumed meat daily, or even occasionally, were significantly more likely to suffer from asthma than those excluded meat and eggs from diets altogether. Eggs (along with soda) have also been associated with asthma attacks in children, along with respiratory symptoms, such as wheezing, shortness of breath, and exercise-induced coughing. Removing eggs and dairy from diet has been shown to improve asthmatic children’s lung function in as few as eight weeks.
The most lethal lung diseases vary widely in presentation and prognosis. As noted, smoking is far and away the leading cause of lung cancer and COPD, but diseases like asthma typically develop during childhood and can be associated with range of contributing factors, such as low birth weight and frequent respiratory infections. While quitting smoking remains the effective way to ward off defenses by eating a diet rich in protective plant foods.
If you are one of the millions of Indians who already suffer from lung disease, quitting smoking and changing your diet can still make a difference. It’s never too late to start living and eating healthier. The restorative powers of the human body are remarkable, but your body needs help. By including foods that contain cancer-fighting compounds and loading up on antioxidant- rich fruits and veggies, you may be able to strengthen your respiratory defenses and breathe easier.