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How Old Are Your Lungs? Knowing Lung Age May Help You Quit Smoking

lung ageAccording to the Journal of Family Practice, knowing your lung age can help you quit smoking. In fact, a study published in 2008 suggests that for every 14 smokers who are told their lung age and shown a graphic diagram depicting the results, one smoker will quit.

What Does Lung Age Mean?

COPD is primarily diagnosed using a breathing apparatus known as a spirometer. A spirometry test measures how well your lungs are functioning. Test results are reported as being a percentage of what is usual for your age, height, and sex.

One part of the test measures forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1). In COPD, FEV1 helps doctors understand the degree of your lung impairment. Lung age refers to the age that your spirometry test results would be normal. For example, a 45 year old smoker may have the lungs of a 69 year old person who has never smoked. Lung age demonstrates the premature lung damage caused by smoking.

How Does Knowing Your Lung Age Help You Quit?

In 2008, British researchers hypothesized that knowing a person’s lung age would help them quit smoking. They tested the strategy on 561 smokers aged 35 years and older with an average of 33-pack years (equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day for 22 years) of smoking.

Each subject was given a spirometry test before being divided into two groups: one group that would be told their spirometry results and their lung age (intervention group) and another that would only learn their spirometry results (control group). After 12 months, participants were evaluated for smoking cessation. Results of the study revealed that after one year, 13.6% in the intervention group had successfully quit smoking, compared to 6.4% in the control group.

How to Calculate Lung Age

Want to find out how old your lungs are? Although there are a number of methods used to calculate it, the following equation was used in the study mentioned above and published in The Journal of Family Practice:


Lung age = (2.87 x height [in inches]) – (31.25 x observed FEV1 [in liters]) – 39.375


Lung age = (3.56 x height [in inches]) – (40 x observed FEV1 [in liters]) – 77.28


If you’d like more information about spirometry testing and lung age, talk to your doctor.


Deane, Kristen, and James J. Stevermer. “Help Smokers Quit: Tell Them Their ‘lung Age.’” Ed. John Hickner. The Journal of Family Practice 57.9 (2008): 584–586. Print.

by Deborah Leader RN, BSN, PHN


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