Smoking and Health

By Bon Vie Medical Aid Scheme

Dangers of Smoking

Health Risks of Smoking

Smoking harms nearly every organ of the body and some of these harmful and negative effects are immediate while some develop over a long period of time. Many smokers are failing to quit smoking because the nicotine from cigarettes is as addictive as heroin and it changes your brain. The brain develops extra nicotine receptors to accommodate the large doses of nicotine from tobacco. When the brain stops getting the nicotine it is used to, the result is nicotine withdrawal. You may feel anxious, irritable, and have strong nicotine cravings.

Smoking and cardiovascular Disease

Smokers are at greater risk for diseases that affect the heart and blood vessels (cardiovascular disease). Even people who smoke fewer than five cigarettes a day can have early signs of cardiovascular disease. Smoking damages blood vessels and can make them thicken and grow narrower. This results in increased heart beat and blood pressure. Clots can also form leading to strokes. A stroke occurs when either a clot blocks the blood flow to part of your brain or blood vessel in or around your brain bursts. Blockages caused by smoking can also reduce blood flow to your legs and skin

Smoking and Respiratory Disease

Smokers’ lungs experience inflammation in the small airways and tissues of the lungs often leading to wheezing, shortness of breath or a tight chest feeling. Continued inflammation builds up scar tissue, which leads to physical changes to your lungs and airways that can make breathing hard. Years of lung irritation can give you a chronic cough with mucus. Smoking destroys the tiny air sacs, or alveoli, in the lungs that allow oxygen exchange. Alveoli don’t grow back, so when you destroy them, you have permanently destroyed part of your lungs. When enough alveoli are destroyed, the disease Emphysema develops. Emphysema causes severe shortness of breath and can lead to death. Your airways are lined with tiny brush like hairs, called Cilia which sweep out mucus and dirt so your lungs stay clear. Smoking temporarily paralyzes and even kills Cilia which increases your risk for infection. Smokers get more colds and respiratory infections than non-smokers

Smoking and Cancer

Your body is made up of cells that contain genetic material, or DNA, that act as an “instruction manual” for cell growth and function. Every single puff of a cigarette causes damages to your DNA. When DNA is damaged, the “instruction manual” gets messed up, and the cell can begin growing out of control and create a cancer tumor. Your body tries to repair the damage that smoking does to your DNA, but over time, smoking can wear down this repair system and lead to cancer (like lung cancer). One-third of all cancer deaths are caused by tobacco.

Other Health Risks of Smoking

Smoking can make it harder for a woman to become pregnant and affect her baby’s health before and after birth. It can also affect men’s sperm, which can reduce fertility and also increase risks for birth defects and miscarriage. Smoking affects the health of your teeth and gums and can cause tooth loss. Smoking is a cause of type 2 Diabetes Mellitus and can make it harder to control. The risk of developing Diabetes is 30–40% higher for active smokers than non-smokers. Smoking increases the risk of erectile dysfunction—the inability to get or keep and erection.

Quitting Smoking and Reduced Risks

Quitting smoking is the best thing a smoker can do for their own health. Quitting smoking cuts cardiovascular risks and in just one year after quitting, your risk for a heart attack drops sharply. Within two to five years, your risk for stroke may reduce to about that of a non smoker’s. Your risks for cancers of the mouth, throat, esophagus, and bladder drop by half within five years while your risk for lung cancer drops by half after ten years after you quit smoking.

Image provided by Bon Vie

Originally published in the 105th issue of Ndeipi Magazine

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