What Are the Health Risks of Smoking Cigarettes

The damage that smoking can do to your body is truly immense. With the plethora of toxic chemicals present in every cigarette that you smoke, smoking regularly can very well be compared to living in a continual acid rain downpour (however mild it might be). How do you think that would affect your physical well being? The chemicals that you inhale in the form of cigarette smoke do play havoc inside your body, and smoking has been known to cause a variety of health problems.

It is not just you who is at risk because of smoking, but those around you as well. Inhaling second-hand smoke is known to be just as dangerous, and your smoking, therefore, also exposes your family and friends to the medical complications that arise due to smoking. For example, instances of children suffering from breathing related problems, in a house where both parents smoke, are fairly common.

The medical complications that can arise because you smoke include:

Heart Diseases:
Your chances of getting a heart attack increase considerably if you continue to smoke, and there really isn’t any safe number of cigarettes that you can smoke every day. However, the more you smoke, the greater are your chances of having heart related problems.

Cigarette smoking is a very big factor when it comes to Coronary Heart Disease, and as a smoker, your chances of having a heart attack increase two or three times. If you also have high blood pressure or increased cholesterol levels, then the possibility increases even further. Around 80% of the heart attacks that occur in men under the age of 45 occur in men who smoke.

Once you inhale the smoke from a cigarette, the heart and the blood vessels surrounding it have several immediate reactions. After a minute of your starting to smoke there is a rise in the heart rate, and it can increase by up to 30% within the first ten minutes. Blood pressure also rises when you smoke, and the constriction of blood vessels forces your heart to exert more energy in transporting oxygen. At the same time, the carbon monoxide present in cigarette smoke reduces the ability of the blood to transport oxygen.

You, as a smoker, also have 5 times more chances of developing abdominal aortic aneurysms as compared to non-smokers.

Strokes:
Smoking has a considerable effect on the arteries that supply blood to the brain, and causes the arteries as well as other tissues to harden, thereby putting you at an increased risk of getting a stroke. Data shows that smokers are more likely to develop strokes (cerebral thrombosis) when compared to non-smokers; with women who are on contraceptive pills facing increased risks.

Erectile Dysfunction:
If you are a man, and if you are under the impression that smoking could make you more of a man, then do know that the reverse can actually be true. Clinical tests connecting smoking and erectile dysfunction have been conducted for some time now, and recent reports show that incidences of impotence are close to double in smokers.

Nicotine acts as a vasoconstrictor, which simply means that it constricts the blood vessels and arteries, thereby impeding the flow of blood in your body. Since the basis of an erection is blood filling up the penis’ blood vessels, the impediment in blood flow results in an unsatisfactory erection, or in the complete absence of one.

Nicotine use can also cause your testosterone levels to drop, and since testosterone is the primary male sex hormone, this drop in testosterone levels could adversely affect your sex drive.

Cancer:
Owing to the large number of chemicals present in cigarette smoke, smoking can lead to cancer in various parts of the body.

Amongst the most commonly discussed forms of cancer that occurs due to smoking is lung cancer. There is a considerable ‘dose response’ relationship when it comes to smoking and lung cancer, wherein the more you smoke, the more are the probabilities of your getting lung cancer. 90% of lung cancer deaths in men and 80% of lung cancer deaths in women are attributed to smoking.

Oral cancer (mouth cancer) also sees smoking as a primary factor (along with other forms of tobacco intake). If you have oral cancer, there is a possibility that it will spread further down the oral cavity to the larynx and the oesophagus, and continuing smoking would only hasten the process.

Bladder cancer also sees a considerable effect of smoking, wherein about half of all the bladder cancer related death in men, and around 30% in women, are attributed to smoking. This is because some of the carcinogens that enter your body in the form of cigarette smoke enter your blood. They are then filtered by your kidney, and get concentrated in the urine. Once in the urine, these chemicals work their way in damaging the inside lining of your bladder. This increases the probability of your getting bladder cancer.

A new study has also shown that smoking increases the chances of your getting cancer of the pancreas (pancreatic cancer). The study also went on to show that people who smoked lesser for a long period were more vulnerable to getting pancreatic cancer than people who smoked more but for a shorter duration.

Kidney cancer is another form of cancer that you risk each time you light up, as a smoking history is one of the reasons for kidney cancer. Renal cell carcinoma, the most common form of cancer that affects the kidney, affects smokers way more than non-smokers (almost two times more). While your kidneys handle the waste filtration of your body (as urine), chemicals such as tar and nicotine can damage the kidney and impede this process. Besides, the carcinogens can also damage your kidney tissue.

The possibility of your getting stomach cancer go up around two times if you are a smoker, and smoking also increases the risk of your getting cervical cancer by around 60%. Recent data has shown that close to half of Australia’s indigenous women smoke, putting a large section of the population at risk of contracting this otherwise preventable form of cancer.

Chronic Lung Disease:
Smoking affects your lungs, and this is something you already know. However, this damage is not limited to lung cancer. Smoking also plays a very big role is other lung diseases, and is easily the biggest culprit when it comes to Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).

Emphysema and chronic bronchitis are two other lung related conditions that are linked to smoking. Emphysema (also referred to as ‘lung rot’) is degenerative in nature, and would make you feel short of breath every time you need to exert yourself even the slightest. Chronic bronchitis causes problems in your lungs’ ability to absorb oxygen, also resulting in excessive mucus production.

If and when you are diagnosed with a lung related ailment, the first thing that you need to do is stop smoking.

Smokers Cough:
Smoking leads to the bronchial tubes being irritated, and this generally results in increased mucus production. Smokers cough is basically your body’s way to try and clean its lungs. Not only can it be quite gross to listen to, it can also lead to more serious complications if not addressed in a timely manner.

Physical Performance:
Smoking has a considerable effect on the fitness levels of any smoker, and the longer that you smoke, the more easily would you run out of breath and get tired. Smoking affects your fitness levels in various ways, and mainly does this by reducing the amount of oxygen that your body gets.

Smoking cigarettes would affect your respiration, wherein your airways’ resistance would increase while reducing oxygen supply to your lungs. The presence of carbon monoxide in your blood would reduce the amount of oxygen which is supplied to the muscles, as your blood would also have a lesser supply of oxygen from your lungs.

Smoking is known to increase fatigue whilst and after exercising, and smoking also hampers improvement in sports as well as other physical activities. It can also reduce your physical endurance levels with the passing of time and your growing dependence.

Gangrene and Ulcers in Legs and Feet:
People who smoke have 16 times more chances of suffering from peripheral vascular disease (a condition which results in the blockage of blood vessels in your feet or legs). If you suffer from this condition, quitting smoking immediately is very important.

If you suffer from arterial leg ulcers, one of the first thing that you would need to do is to quit smoking. These ulcers are essentially caused because of poor blood circulation, and while there are other factors that can lead to this condition, smoking definitely has a role to play as well.

If you ignore these early signs and still carry on smoking, there are chances that your leg could develop gangrene. Clubbed with other factors, you also face increased risks of developing atherosclerosis. If you continue smoking even after you’ve been operated upon for peripheral vascular disease, there is an increased chance of a relapse, and this could also lead to an amputation.

Personal Appearance:
Your personal appearance takes quite a beating the longer that you continue to smoke. Things such as bad breath, yellow teeth, and yellow finger nails have long been associated with smokers. New research shows that smoking also damages your skin, causing it to wrinkle and age faster; and it also hastens the process of hair loss, at times leading to complete baldness.

This is, by no means, a comprehensive list of the health risks that you face because of smoking. Every time you light up from now on, do think about all the dangers that you’re subjecting yourself to in the form of cigarette smoke. Remember, while this little tobacco filled stick might be a great source of momentary relief or pleasure, the associated health risks make this a road that is best avoided. And if you’re already on it, then get off it as soon as you can.