WAUSAU, Wis. – If you are a smoker, you probably know you should stop. That is a good start toward quitting, but you need a powerful motivator to follow through. Knowing the truth about how smoking harms your health may be what it takes.
“It’s never too late to put the “ex” in front of smoker,” said Aspirus Respiratory Therapist Sarah Schroeder. “Quitting smoking will reduce your risk of infections like colds, the flu, bronchitis and pneumonia.”
An alarming fact is that smoking affects nearly every part of your body, including your:
• Airways. Delicate tissues in your lungs become inflamed because of smoking. This can lead to serious disorders, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Smoking can also cause cancer to develop in your lungs, throat, and mouth.
• Heart. Smoking harms the cells lining the blood vessels and heart and can increase the risk of clots that cause heart attacks. Smoking can also contribute to an abdominal aortic aneurysm—the weakening of the major artery near the stomach.
• Other blood vessels. Damage to vessel linings can cause them to narrow, restricting blood flow to the kidneys, stomach, arms, legs, and feet. This can lead to a range of problems, including pain and gangrene.
• Brain. Blood clots that form in damaged arteries can travel to your brain and cause potentially fatal strokes.
• Bones and tendons. Smoking increases the risk for osteoporosis—weak bones—and fractures in both men and women. Overuse injuries, such as tendinitis, and traumatic injuries, such as sprains, are also more likely among smokers, according to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons.
• Immune system. Smokers have smaller amounts than nonsmokers of some types of cells that destroy germs. That leaves you more vulnerable to infections.
In addition, smoking can cause cancer of the pancreas, kidneys, cervix, and stomach. It also can cause leukemia, which is cancer of the blood. And smoking increases your risk for eye diseases and dental problems.
Women who smoke tend to have more complications with pregnancy, including premature births, low-birth-weight babies, and stillbirths. And their babies are more likely to die of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) than babies whose mothers do not smoke.
Turn your risks around
There is another list that is much more encouraging—the benefits of giving up smoking. Check it out, along with the American Cancer Society’s guide to quitting smoking, at morehealth.org/quit4good.
By quitting, your health risks decrease immediately and continue to diminish over time, no matter how long you have smoked. A tobacco Quitline can also help you quit for good. Call 800-QUIT-NOW (800-784-8669).
“Once you quit smoking, you will have more energy and feel healthier, Schroeder said. “Don’t put off quitting. Ask for help.”
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