smoking risks

The irony of smoking is that everyone knows it is bad for one’s health but not everyone stays away from it. It all starts with either being curious, wanting to fit in, or finding a diversion. However it began, once started it is difficult to stop the habit. And although you know the risks of smoking, the will to really stop arrives when it is already late. The old saying “prevention is better than cure” is usually undervalued.

How great are the health risks of smoking? Look at it this way. Smoking can cancel the collective health benefits of eating a balanced diet, having good exercise and proper sleep. That means a person who continues to smoke is eternally at risk of developing health problems. The reason is inside every stick of cigarette itself. Approximately 400 toxic substances are present in cigarettes and some of the most harmful include tar, nicotine, carbon monoxide and the elements of the gas particulate. Each of these toxins has a different negative effect on the body. Tar is a carcinogen (cancer-causing agent), nicotine elevates cholesterol levels and causes addiction, carbon monoxide reduces oxygen in the tissues, and the gas components of smoking can lead to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

With 400 toxins present in one cigarette multiplied by the number of cigarettes smoked in a day, it is not surprising that chronic smokers develop several diseases by the time they reach middle adulthood. And of these diseases, the most popular cigarette smoking-related disease is probably lung cancer. The connection between lung cancer and smoking is very obvious. Statistics show that ninety percent of lung cancer cases are blamed on smoking. Therefore if nobody learned to smoke lung cancer will belong to the list of rarely identified diseases. But aside from lung cancer there are many other health risks of smoking. Cancer, for example, is not just isolated to the lungs. Other parts of the respiratory system such as the mouth and throat are equally affected.

Although many lung cancer cases are due to smoking, it does not rank first when it comes to the mortality rate. One of the health risks of smoking and the chief cause of death for many smokers is cardiovascular disease (CVD). CVD is the general term for problems of the heart and the blood vessels. The nicotine component in cigarettes greatly damages the cardiovascular system. Atherosclerosis develops due to the buildup of cholesterol and fat deposits in the arteries causing narrowing or obstruction. Because of this, the arteries harden over time (arteriosclerosis) consequently increasing blood clot formation in the affected vessels. This combined vascular problem results in major life-threatening conditions including heart attack and stroke. Hypertension is also almost always present in people with CVD because of compromised blood supply to the kidneys. If the kidneys fail, the body will lose blood pressure control.

Apart from CVD and cancers, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is another common problem arising from smoking. About eighty percent of COPD cases have a history of chronic smoking. COPD is not really a disease but a disorder. It refers collectively to conditions causing blockage to the airway and compromising effective breathing. Emphysema, breathlessness due to destructed lung tissue, and chronic bronchitis, inflammation with increased mucus production in the airways, cause breathing problems altogether. As COPD progresses, the breathing problem becomes severe and prolonged hospitalization is needed until the person dies a slow death.

Other risks of smoking are seen on many systems of the body. These include fertility problems for both men and women, eye problems such as cataract formation and gradual loss of eyesight (due to macular degeneration). In addition, gastrointestinal problems such as diverticulitis and inflammatory bowel disease may occur, decreased bone density and increased risk for osteoporosis in women, greater chance of developing diabetes, and reduces skin luster and firmness. Smoking, thus, creates a cascade of health problems, one leading to another. The different systems of the human body, after all, work together. If one major system or bodily function fails, the rest may follow.

Now if you are a non-smoker, a word of caution against secondhand smoke. By being around secondhand smoke you get the negative effects of smoking without having to actually smoke. Parents most especially should be warned against smoking around their children. Exposure to secondhand smoke causes increased risk for asthma and other respiratory infections.

All the diseases and disorders aforementioned in this article are the possible health problems that you can get from smoking. You are risking getting either a life-threatening condition or a permanent loss of ability over a few puffs of smoke. The damage that smoking can do happens gradually but when it does happen it is usually late for medical intervention. Information on the risks of smoking are found everywhere. Everyone knows but only a few actually listens.

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