An estimated 37.8 million adults within the United States are currently smoking cigarettes and more than 16 million Americans are living with a chronic disease caused by smoking. Despite the number of people falling ill because of cigarettes, many people are continuing to use them anyway.
Tobacco smoking has been known to be a major contributor to a variety of chronic illnesses like lung cancer and heart problems. Smoking is also linked to pregnancy complications, low sperm count and many other issues. A middle-aged smoker who has smoked cigarettes for over 10 years are two to three times more likely to die earlier than someone who hasn’t smoked.
So many people die as a result of smoking cigarettes and yet, many of us still don’t take it seriously. Hopefully, by knowing how smoking can affect overall health, smokers may be inspired not to purchase another pack again.
How Smoking Affects Us From Head to Toe
Smoking cigarettes can damage almost every organ in the body. Some of these harmful effects can take years to show while other effects happen immediately. Discover how some of the effects of smoking can occur in different parts of your body, ranging from your brain all the way down to your DNA.
Smoking and Your Brain
Did you know that the nicotine in cigarettes is as addictive as heroin? When you smoke tobacco on a daily basis, your brain will develop extra nicotine receptors to cope with the large dose of nicotine that’s being put into your body.
When you stop smoking cigarettes, your brain stops getting all the nicotine that it’s addicted to getting, which results in nicotine withdrawals. Nicotine addiction can be a hard habit to quit because it changes your brain, which is why some people become anxious and have strong cravings for nicotine.
How Tobacco Can Affect Your Heart
Smoking affects your heart in many ways like stressing your heart out and causing strokes and heart attacks.
Puts stress on your heart: Smoking increases your blood pressure and adds extra stress on your heart. If left unnoticed, over time, stress can weaken your heart and make it harder to pump blood to other parts of your body.
Smoking also contains carbon monoxide, which contributes to a lack of oxygen. This makes the heart work twice as hard and increases the risk of heart attacks and heart disease.
Coagulates the blood: Smoking thickens your blood. The thicker the blood, the harder your heart is going to work to distribute it throughout your whole body. Thicker blood can also cause blood clots and over time lead to damaging the lining of your blood vessels, which can increase your risk of a stroke or heart attack.
Increases fatty deposits: Smoking cigarettes can raise the cholesterol and unhealthy fat levels in your blood. This can lead to debris build-up, which can block the normal blood flow to your heart and brain. Blocked blood flow to the heart or brain can cause a stroke or a heart attack while blockage in the blood vessels in your legs can lead to your toes or feet being amputated.
Smoking and Your Lungs
As we all know, smoking can affect your lungs and breathing, but do you know in what way?
Scars your lungs: Smoking can cause inflammation within the lungs. Over time, this inflammation can build up scar tissue that can lead to changes in your airways and lungs, making it hard to breathe.
Emphysema: Smoking destroys the tiny air sacs within the lungs called alveoli. The alveoli do not have the ability to grow back, so when they’re destroyed they’re gone forever. When a large number of alveoli are destroyed, it leads to emphysema, which can cause severe shortness of breath and potentially lead to death.
Respiratory infections: Our airways are lined with small hairs called cilia, which helps clear out your lungs by removing dirt and mucus. Smoking kills cilia, increasing your risk for respiratory infections and raising your risk for getting colds as well.
How Smoking Can Affect Your Immune System
Increases white blood cell count: Smoking raises the number of white blood cells in your body because they are constantly fighting the inflammation caused by the nicotine. Over time, the high levels of white blood cells can increase the risk of cancer, strokes and heart attacks.
Takes wounds longer to heal: Nicotine tightens blood vessels, making it hard for the nutrients, oxygen and minerals needed to do their job of helping heal wounds. As a result, wounds take longer to fully heal.
Weakens the immune system: Cigarettes contain chemicals that weaken the immune system. A weak immune system increases the risk of getting sick, makes you more vulnerable to autoimmune diseases and reduces your body’s ability to fight off cancer.
Almost half a million people lose their lives each year as a result of smoking cigarettes. As sad as this may be, there is still hope that the number of casualties can decrease. By informing smokers about the potentially deadly side effects they’re exposing themselves to when smoking cigarettes will help them realize that their lives are more valuable than a temporary fix.
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Smoking & Tobacco Use. (2018, February 20). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/fast_facts/index.htm