According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cigarette smoking is responsible for over 480,000 deaths each year in the United States alone. That’s more than deaths from HIV, illegal drug use, alcohol use, motor vehicle injuries, and firearm-related incidents combined.
But why is smoking so detrimental to our health? Here are 4 top health reasons why smoking is bad.
The CDC reports that smoking causes about 90% of all lung cancer deaths. To put it in perspective, that’s 9 out of 10 lung cancer deaths that could have been prevented.
For men, the risk of developing lung cancer increases by 25 times compared to non-smokers. For women, the risk is even higher at 25.7 times. It’s a chilling fact that more women die from lung cancer each year than from breast cancer.
But the cancerous reach of smoking doesn’t stop at the lungs. It extends its deadly grasp to other parts of the body as well. Smoking can also cause cancer in the throat, mouth, bladder, kidney, liver, stomach, pancreas, colon, and more. It’s like a silent invader, wreaking havoc wherever it goes.
2. Cardiovascular Disease
Smoking is an insidious enemy of the heart. It damages blood vessels, causing them to thicken and narrow. This restricts blood flow, forcing your heart to work harder. Over time, this can lead to coronary heart disease, the leading cause of death in the U.S.
Smoking also increases the risk of stroke. Here’s how a stroke happens:
- Damage to Blood Vessels: The chemicals in tobacco smoke harm your blood cells and can damage the function of your heart and the structure and function of your blood vessels. This damage increases the risk of atherosclerosis, a disease in which a waxy substance called plaque builds up in the arteries.
- Plaque Buildup: Over time, the continuous exposure to tobacco smoke contributes to the buildup of plaque in the blood vessels, which can lead to blockages.
- Increased Blood Clotting: Smoking makes your blood stickier and more prone to clotting. Blood clots can block blood flow to your brain, leading to a stroke.
- Reduced Oxygen in the Blood: Smoking reduces the amount of oxygen in your blood, so your heart has to work harder to supply the necessary oxygen to your body and brain. If blood carrying oxygen cannot reach the brain, a stroke can occur.
- Increased Blood Pressure: Nicotine in cigarettes can raise your blood pressure and heart rate, making your heart work harder. High blood pressure is a significant risk factor for stroke.
3. Respiratory Disease
Smoking can cause a variety of respiratory diseases besides lung cancer. Here’s a look at some of them and how smoking contributes to their development:
- Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): In people with COPD, the airways in their lungs are partially blocked, making it difficult to breathe. Smoking is the most common cause of COPD and is responsible for about 80% of cases. The smoke from cigarettes leads to inflammation and eventually can destroy the stretchy fibers in the lungs, causing the airways to become narrow and blocked.
- Asthma: While not caused by smoking, asthma can be significantly worsened by it. Smoke irritates the airways, causing them to swell, tighten, and fill with mucus. This can trigger an asthma attack, which can be severe and even life-threatening.
- Pneumonia: Smoking damages the tiny hairs (cilia) that line your bronchial tubes and sweep out bacteria. This can allow bacteria to settle in, leading to infections like pneumonia.
- Tuberculosis: Smoking damages the lungs and decreases immune defenses, making it easier for infections like tuberculosis to take hold. Smokers are much more likely to contract tuberculosis and to die from it.
- Respiratory Infections: Smoking damages the immune system, making smokers more susceptible to respiratory infections. It also damages the cilia in the lungs, which help to clear out bacteria and viruses, making infections more likely.
4. Overall Health
Smoking doesn’t just target specific organs; it undermines your overall health. It’s like a domino effect, knocking down your body’s defenses one by one. It weakens your immune system, making you more susceptible to infections.
It reduces your bone density, increasing the risk of fractures. It even affects your oral health, leading to gum disease and tooth loss.
Smoking is a deadly habit that can lead to cancer, heart disease, respiratory disease, and a decline in overall health. It’s a silent killer, slowly but surely wreaking havoc on your body. But the good news is that it’s never too late to quit. By kicking the habit, you can significantly reduce your risk of these diseases and improve your overall health.
So, make the choice today.