GREENEVILLE, TN – Although emphysema is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States, it is not a highly publicized disease.
But Dr. Frederic D. Seifer, a renowned pulmonologist and critical care specialist with Takoma Medical Associates, believes the recent death of late-night icon Johnny Carson will help draw attention to this often overlooked respiratory disorder.
Carson, host of NBC’s “The Tonight Show” for nearly 30 years, died Jan. 23 of emphysema. A longtime smoker, Carson had announced in 2002 that he was suffering from the disease.
He was a heavy smoker during his “Tonight” days, wielding a cigarette as a prop on air until smoking on TV passed out of favor.
Emphysema, also known as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), is “an ongoing problem that keeps you from breathing normally,” Seifer said
Almost 16-30 million U.S. citizens are afflicted with COPD, Seifer noted. “And every year approximately 100,000 sufferers die of the disease,” he said.
Smoking is the major cause of COPD, which is characterized by dyspnea – or shortness of breath. “Initially, shortness of breath is mild and often overlooked by the patient and their physician,” Seifer said. “As the disease progresses, so does the dyspnea. Eventually, patients with advanced emphysema struggle to breath even when sitting at rest. COPD is a horrible way to die.”
Every time a smoker takes a puff on a cigarette, more than 4,000 toxic substances -- including carbon monoxide and formaldehyde -- are inhaled into their lungs, Seifer said. Cigarette smoke – a hot, volatile gas – not only irritates airways, but actually destroys lung tissue, he noted.
“Cigarette smoke is the leading cause of lung cancer and contributes to various other cancers, such as bladder, larynx, esophagus, pancreas and uterus,” Seifer said. “It is very obvious that smoking is detrimental to one’s health. But the good news is that people can successfully quit smoking.”
Seifer is creator of a groundbreaking, tobacco intervention program called HIP (Health-status Improvement Program) that helps participants quit smoking, chewing and dipping tobacco products, lose weight, and regain their health.
“If you follow the recipe, you will have success,” he said. “It’s that simple.”
The outpatient program is unique because it is physician-directed, it is covered by most insurance policies, and treatment continues for at least one year. As a result of Seifer’s unique approach, he has a whopping 84 percent quit rate, while the national average is only 22 percent.
“With HIP, you receive complete care by a doctor, not a counselor or someone who is just facilitating the program,” Seifer explained. “In those other programs, if you need a prescription, for example, you have to go and see a doctor separately. With HIP, we provide total care.”
A key reason for HIP’s overwhelming success is that Seifer treats tobacco addiction as any other chronic disease, like diabetes, for example. “That’s why insurance will pay for it,” he noted
Additionally, Seifer continues to treat patients – even after they have stopped smoking. “We want to make sure patients have long-term success, so we treat them for at least an entire year,” he said.
HIP is a very successful program for smokers wanting to quit, Seifer said. Tobacco cessation is the primary way to intervene, but a main strategy of HIP is to treat tobacco dependency and obesity together.
“Many smokers are overweight,” he noted. “Others are aware that when people stop smoking, they commonly gain weight. With HIP, our patients have actually quit smoking and lost weight.”
For more information on HIP, please contact Seifer at Takoma Medical Associates at (423) 422-7813. Office hours are Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m.