HEALTH MATTERS: Yes, smoking is really bad for you
Q. I'm a smoker, but I'm trying to quit. I know that smoking is bad for me, but just how bad? A. Great question. It turns out that almost a quarter of U.S. men between the ages of 35 and 64 are current smokers (23 percent); for women, the number ...
Q. I’m a smoker, but I’m trying to quit. I know that smoking is bad for me, but just how bad?
A. Great question. It turns out that almost a quarter of U.S. men between the ages of 35 and 64 are current smokers (23 percent); for women, the number is a little lower at almost one out of five (19 percent). The frequency of smoking is less in the elderly, averaging around 10 percent or so in Americans 65 years and older. But the number of smokers around the globe is staggering - there are almost a billion smokers worldwide.
Nearly half of all current smokers who are 65 years of age or older have at least one serious medical condition associated with smoking. Conditions that are associated with smoking include chronic bronchitis and chronic obstructive lung disease (COPD), heart attacks, stroke, specific cancers such as lung cancer and diabetes.
For younger patients, these conditions are about twice as common in smokers as nonsmokers. But for certain smoking-related conditions, the risk of developing them is much higher in smokers. For example, COPD is about four times more common, and lung cancer is six times more common in men.
All in all, at least 14 million people in the United States have serious medical conditions caused by smoking. And smoking results in almost half a million deaths each year.
So the evidence is clear - smoking is bad for you, and I applaud your efforts to quit. We do know that one’s risk of many serious medical conditions decreases when one is able to stop. So good luck.
Q. My dad was very sick recently with a staph infection in his blood. He’s getting better now, but we were really scared for a while. Is this type of infection common?
A. One of the most serious types of infection that we see is one where bacteria invade the bloodstream and travel throughout the body. It affects about one out of 300 to 350 people each year.
This type of infection often is associated with low blood pressure and associated poor blood flow to the body; this condition is called septic shock. It can be caused by many infectious agents, including the Staphylococcus bacterium (“staph”). The risk of death is high, ranging from 20 to 50 percent.
Treatment includes antibiotics, intravenous fluids and medicine to support blood pressure. Identification of the source of the infection is important, too. In patients with staph in their blood, it appears that about a quarter turn out to have an infection of one of their heart valves. We identify this infection with an ultrasound examination of the heart (called an echocardiogram), often performed with the ultrasound probe placed in the food tube (esophagus). We call this a transesophageal echocardiogram.
Many patients with an infection of their heart valve require open heart surgery. I’m glad your father didn’t have this complication, but he undoubtedly is receiving prolonged antibiotic therapy; most patients require at least two weeks of therapy once their blood is cleared of the staph, and some require up to four to six weeks of treatment.
Wynne is vice president for health affairs at UND, dean of the School of Medicine and Health Sciences and a professor of medicine. He is a cardiologist by training.
Submit a question to Health Matters at email@example.com or Health Matters, 501 North Columbia Road, Stop 9037, Grand Forks, ND 58202-9037. Remember, no personal details, please.
The content of this column is for informational purposes only and does not substitute for professional medical advice or care. The information provided herein should not be used for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease. If you have or suspect you may have a health problem, you should consult your health care provider. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read in this column.