The act of smoking takes a wrecking ball to your health. The toxins introduced to your body and the diseases caused by smoking harm almost every organ in the body. Tobacco use remains the largest preventable cause of disease and premature death in the United States.
According to the CDC, more than 10 times as many U.S. citizens have died prematurely from cigarette smoking than have died in all the wars fought by the United States. That’s a pretty sobering statistic.
Most people only think lung cancer when they think of ways smoking might kill you, but the truth is, there are many ways smoking is toxic to your body. Read on to discover just how terrible smoking really is to your overall well being.
1. The Big One
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This is the one everyone thinks of as the big killer when it comes to smoking—and make no mistake, it is.
According to the American Lung Association, men who smoke are 23 times more likely to get lung cancer and women who smoke are 13 times more likely. Nonsmokers who are exposed to secondhand smoke are also at risk, with a 20 to 30% higher risk of developing lung cancer.
2. Harder To Breathe
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease is an umbrella term for chronic lung diseases such as emphysema and chronic bronchitis. COPD is the number three killer in the country and can be directly linked to smoking. Studies have shown that smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke during childhood and teenage years slow lung development and increases the risk of developing COPD as you age.
The lungs aren’t the only major organ system affected by smoking, either…
3. A Heartbreaking Discovery
One in five deaths from heart disease is directly related to smoking, and smokers are much more likely to develop heart disease than nonsmokers. Smoking damages blood vessels and can make them thicken and grow narrower as we age. This makes your heart beat faster and your blood pressure go up.
Even people who smoke fewer than five cigarettes a day can show early signs of cardiovascular disease.
4. Risk Of Stroke
A stroke occurs when either a clot blocks blood flow to part of your brain or a blood vessel in or around your brain bursts. Smoking doubles your risk of having a stroke. According to the National Stroke Association, smoking lowers oxygen levels in the blood, making the heart work harder. This makes it easier for blood clots to form.
When the heart works harder than it should, another complication can arise…
5. Aortic Aneurysm
The aorta is the largest blood vessel in your body, responsible for feeding oxygen rich blood from your heart to the rest of your body.
An aortic aneurysm is a weakened area in the upper part of the aorta, which can lead to a tear in the artery wall that can cause life-threatening bleeding. Men who smoke are particularly at high risk of aneurysms.
6. Cancer Where Your Mouth Is
Oropharyngeal cancer starts in the mouth or throat and can affect the voice box, lips, inner surface of the lips, cheeks, and gums. The risk of developing it is directly related to how much someone smokes or chews.
Oral tobacco products, like chewing tobacco, are all linked with these types of cancers. Using oral tobacco products for extended periods of time heightens your risk.
7. More Cancer
Esophageal cancer is cancer that occurs in the esophagus—that long, hollow tube running from your throat to your stomach.
This type of cancer usually begins in the cells that line the inside of the esophagus, and smoking dramatically increases the chances of developing it. Esophageal cancer is the sixth most common cause of cancer deaths worldwide.
8. Watch The Peepers
Cataracts are an eye condition that causes clouding of the eye’s lens, making it hard for you to see. Smoking greatly increases your risk for cataracts.
It can also cause age-related macular degeneration. AMD is damage to a small spot near the center of the retina, the part of the eye needed for central vision, and can cause blindness.
9. Diabetes Risk
We now know with certainty that smoking causes type 2 diabetes. In fact, according to the CDC, smokers are 30 to 40% more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than nonsmokers.
People who develop diabetes and continue to smoke are also more likely to have trouble controlling their blood sugar and insulin levels.
10. Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks the joints, causes swelling and pain. Smoking is known to compromise the equilibrium of the immune system, and recent studies have proven that it is a cause of rheumatoid arthritis. Smoking also interferes with the effectiveness of certain treatments for rheumatoid arthritis.
The next two issues should be of particular importance to people who have waited to start a family.
11. Fertility Issues
Smoking has been linked to decreased fertility in both men and women. Studies suggest that smoking affects hormone production, which can make it more difficult for women smokers to become pregnant.
Men who smoke are more likely to have damaged DNA in their sperm, which can reduce their fertility and put the pregnancy at higher risk of birth defects.
12. Bad For Babies
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome is the sudden, unexplainable death of a child during sleep. It occurs between the ages of one month and one year.
Studies have shown that babies whose mothers smoked during pregnancy or who are exposed to secondhand smoke after birth are more likely to die of SIDS than are babies who are not exposed. The risk is even higher if the father also smokes.
All men should be concerned about the next issue, too…
13. Erectile Dysfunction
Many studies have found that smoking is a major factor in erectile dysfunction.
Cigarette smoke alters blood flow needed for an erection, and smoking interferes with the healthy function of blood vessels in erectile tissue. In one study, men who smoked more than 20 cigarettes a day had a 60% higher risk of developing erectile dysfunction.
14. Not So Pearly Whites
Periodontal disease is an infection of the gums and can affect the bone structure that supports your teeth. In severe cases, it can even make your teeth fall out.
Smoking is a leading cause of severe gum disease in the United States. According to the CDC, smokers have twice the risk for gum disease compared with a nonsmoker.
15. Bad To, And For, The Bone
The nicotine and toxins in cigarettes affect bone health from many angles, leading to things like osteoporosis, a condition in which bones weaken and are more likely to fracture.
Cigarette smoking was first identified as a risk factor for osteoporosis decades ago, and studies have shown a direct relationship between tobacco use and decreased bone density.