Air taken into the lungs enters little tubes called alveoli. "They're like little bubble pops," Dr. Oz says. "As you smoke, you break down those barriers and you pop them. So you take these very nice grape-like structures and you turn them into these big sacs that no longer can exchange air with the outside world. Then when these coalesce and come together, they form these large blebs on the outside of the lung. … That air is not helping you because it can't get into your body and exchange with your blood. So literally as these blebs get larger, they push the normal lung away and you suffocate yourself."
Ten smokers volunteered to have their lungs tested for these effects using state-of-the-art technology at Heart Scan of Chicago. Of the 10, Dr. Oz says six had changes in their lungs that indicated emphysema.
Debbie was one of the patients whose lungs showed signs of emphysema. "You already have, on a scale of 5, 3.5-level emphysema. It's pretty significant," he says. "We get worried about this because this doesn't get better. You can prevent it from getting worse and, depending on how you treat yourself, you can nudge it. But it never gets completely better once you have it." In addition to the effect on her lungs, Dr. Oz says Debbie's heart scan showed a problem. "You have a blockage already. That's actually nicknamed the widow maker," he says. "We're going to have to get a stress test on you to make sure that that's not a life-threatening problem."
Debbie smoked a cigarette right after learning her results. "But my last cigarette was last night. I have a patch on," she says. "The result doesn't surprise me, but it does scare me."
Dr. Oz also found some emphysema changes in Wendie's lungs. "On a scale of 5, it's 2, but you're a very young woman," he says. The doctor expressed more concern about a shadow that showed up on the scan. "Because you're a smoker, these kinds of shadows really concern us, and we start thinking about lung cancer. So we want to repeat the study again in a few months to see if it's changed at all," Dr. Oz says.