As the highly intelligent character Spock in Star Trek, Leonard Nimoy delighted fans and audiences for decades. (Photo: CBS via Getty Images)
Leonard Nimoy, an actor beloved by fans as the iconic character Spock in the original Star Trek television show and films, has died of lung disease at age 83, The New York Times reports.
Nimoy publicly confirmed last year that he suffered from the lung condition chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), the No. 3 killer in America. Nimoy was hospitalized last week after complaints of severe chest pain.
COPD actually refers to a group of conditions, including chronic bronchitis and emphysema, that often occur together. The disease makes it harder to breathe over time because less air comes in and out of the airways. This could be due to mucus clogging up the lung’s air tubes, thickened or inflamed airways, or damage to the walls between the airways. COPD can also involve damage to the lung tissues where oxygen is exchanged.
Smoking, as Nimoy did for a time until quitting about 30 years ago, is the leading cause. Cigarettes are responsible for about 80 to 90 percent of COPD cases, the American Lung Association (ALA) reports. But non-smokers can also develop the condition.
Key symptoms include a hacking “smoker’s cough,” wheezing, and shortness of breath, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Leonard Nimoy flashes a so-called “Vulcan salute.” The hand symbol is a customary greeting of friendship and goodwill within Star Trek mythology. (Photo: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)
People with COPD can experience flare-ups known as exacerbations, which may require hospitalization. Chest pain — which led to Nimoy’s hospital visit last week — is an “uncommon” symptom of COPD, says the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
More than 12 million Americans have COPD, the ALA says. An additional 12 million may suffer from the condition without knowing it, according to estimates based on lung function studies.
Many people don’t seek treatment for COPD until the disease is severe, the ALA says. Although there is no cure for COPD, treatment can help relieve symptoms and improve quality of life.
Watch out for early warning signs, such as shortness of breath during everyday activities, the ALA recommends. “Sometimes people think they are short of breath or less able to do the things they are used to doing because they are ‘just getting old.’ But shortness of breath is never normal,” the ALA’s website says.
Talk with your doctor, the ALA advises, if you notice any COPD symptoms. Diagnosis typically involves simple and painless lung function tests.
As Nimoy’s iconic character would say: Live long and prosper.
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