Health Risks of Smoking

Smoking kills nearly half-a-million people every year in the United States, and those deaths are the easiest to prevent of any of the leading causes of death.  Smoking itself is addictive, which is the main reason people are unable to quit such a destructive habit.  Even when you think you want to quit, addiction tricks your thought processes into believing that you shouldn’t or that it doesn’t matter.  The chemical addiction makes your mind rationalize your need for cigarettes and makes you believe that it’s a choice.  Meanwhile, the chemicals in cigarettes destroy your body in various and serious ways.

One of the worst health risks of cigarettes is cardiovascular disease.  Even people who are light smokers are at heightened risks of developing cardiovascular disease.  Smoking very quickly begins to damage blood vessels, which makes the vessels thicken to compensate.  This wall-thickening narrows the passage, constricting the flow of blood.  Likewise, the thickening makes the vessels harder and more susceptible to other kinds of damage.  The most dangerous aspect of this is that the narrow blood vessels are more prone to blockage, which will cause serious strokes or heart attacks. If the catastrophic blockage doesn’t happen, constricted blood flow to your legs or skin can still cause serious side effects.

Smoking damages airways, including the thousands of tiny air sacs in the lungs.  These tiny sacs are the site of oxygen transfer, so if they’re damaged that system is hampered, meaning your body does not get as much oxygen as it requires.  This can lead to COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which makes it harder and harder to breathe.  Eventually, complications like emphysema and chronic bronchitis can develop, and COPD can even lead to death.

Smoking has been proven to cause cancer.  Although lung cancer is the most well-known cancer caused by smoking, in fact smoking can cause cancer in any part of the body at all.  Bladder cancer, blood cancer, cervical cancer, colon cancer, and liver cancer have all been linked to smoking, as have many more, in other parts of the body.  Obviously the trachea, bronchus, esophagus, in addition to the lungs, are at high risk because of the inhalation of the toxic chemicals.  However, when a smoker gets cancer, the smoking itself increases the possibility of dying from the cancer or other diseases related to it.  According to the CDC, a full one third of cancer deaths would not occur if people stopped smoking.

Smoking has many other negative health risks.  Smoking can interfere with a woman’s ability to become pregnant, and once she is pregnant, it can cause serious problems for the fetus, including preterm delivery, still birth, sudden infant death syndrome, and developmental problems.  Likewise, smoking can cause bones to weaken, can affect the development of diabetes, tooth decay, increased inflammation in the body and reduced immune response.  Overall, there are so many known and well-understood negative consequences of smoking, that it’s amazing anyone at all would take it up today.  People who do smoke should quit immediately.

If you have any questions or concerns about smoking or your overall health, be sure to contact Internal Medicine, Lipids, and Wellness Practice of Fort Myers.  Even if you or someone you know quit smoking many years ago, the negative health consequences can still affect you today.  Call (239) 362-3005 (ext. 200).


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