NEW HYDE PARK, NY -- “Star Trek” icon Leonard Nimoy died of the lung condition known as COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, despite having quit smoking more than 30 years ago.
The 83-year-old actor who played Mr. Spock on TV and in movies lost his battle to a disease that affects more than 12 million Americans.
“COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, comprises, essentially two diseases, emphysema and chronic bronchitis, “ said Harry Steinberg, MD, a pulmonologist in the North Shore-LIJ Health System. “Cigarette smoking, the major cause by far, gradually causes destruction of the elastic fibers of the lung, increases the number and size of mucus glands and destroys the air sacs where oxygen and carbon dioxide are exchanged.”
Even though COPD is most common among smokers, it should be remembered that non-smokers can also develop the condition. That’s why it’s important to be on the look-out for symptoms of the disease.
“The major symptoms are shortness of breath and cough, sometimes productive of sputum,” said Dr. Steinberg. “If the person continues to smoke, progression of the lung disease continues, eventually resulting in death.”
Once damage occurs, it cannot be reversed. But, Dr. Steinberg said, smoking cessation does reduce the disease’s progression.