Emphysema claimed the life of Johnny Carson earlier this week. It's a disease that used to be associated mostly with men, but that's changing.
Turns out women are the fastest growing group of emphysema patients. The reason? American women are lighting up at a record pace...with an estimated 25 million smoking regularly.
Dr. Steven Brown says that explains why more and more, he's seeing women as young as 45 showing early signs of that lung disease.
"They'll say - 'I'm not as competitive as I used to be in tennis anymore.' And they'll say 'Maybe I'm just getting out of shape. Putting on weight.' But in fact, they're developing emphysema and progressive loss of lung function," said Steven Brown, MD, Pulmonologist.
It's the chemicals in tobacco, called enzymes, that do the damage by dissolving the elastic quality of the lungs, so they can't expand and contract as easily.
The damage is irreversible and there is no cure. Although Dr. Brown does say that the sooner you quit, the sooner you stop damaging your lungs.