Around fifty percent of smokers will die as a result of smoking related illness and smoking is widely regarded as the largest, preventable form of death in the world. But what exactly does smoking do to our bodies? Cigarette smoke can have an impact on every part of our bodies and cause a huge number of serious and sometimes fatal diseases.
Smoking creates hundreds of harmful chemicals which enter the bloodstream making your blood thicker and increasing the chances of a clot forming. Thicker blood also means increased blood pressure and heart-rate, putting more pressure on your heart. These factors combine to increase your risk of heart attack or stroke.
As well as forcing your heart to work harder, smoking also causes damage, increasing the risk of heart disease, heart attack, stroke, peripheral vascular disease and cerebrovascular disease. The harmful chemicals in cigarette smoke also damage the lining of your coronary arteries.
Smokers are twice as likely to suffer a heart attack or die from heart disease as non-smokers.
Smoking can cause acid reflux by weakening the muscles in the oesophagus as well as increasing your chances of developing ulcers or stomach cancer. Smoking also increases the risk of developing kidney cancer and this risk increases the more you smoke.
The harmful chemicals in cigarette smoke can cause cellulite as well as changing your complexion to appear more grey and yellow. Smoking also reduced the level of oxygen that reaches your skin, increasing the chances of developing wrinkles and appearing aged.
Smoking increases your chances of developing brittle bones, especially in women. Smokers are fifty percent more likely to suffer a stroke which can cause brain damage and even death. In fact smokers are twice as likely to die from a stroke as non-smokers.
Smoking also increases the risk of developing a brain aneurysm which can rupture causing a type of stroke leading to severe brain damage and possible death.
Unsurprisingly, your lungs can be severely damaged by smoking, causing fatal diseases like pneumonia, emphysema and lung cancer. More than eighty percent of people who die from lung cancer or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease are smokers.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease includes bronchitis and emphysema which cause breathing difficulties. Smoking also leads to breathlessness, persistent cough and frequent chest infections.
As well as bad breath and stained teeth, smoking also causes gum disease as well as damaging your sense of taste.
Smoking greatly increases the chances of developing cancer of the lips, tongue, throat, voice box and oesophagus. Over ninety percent of throat cancer is the direct result of smoking.
Smoking can damage sperm, reduce sperm count and cause testicular cancer as well as causing male impotence by damaging blood supply to the penis. Over one hundred thousand men in the UK are impotent as a result of smoking.
Smoking can also reduce fertility in women. Studies show that smokers are around thirty percent less likely to conceive compared to non-smokers. Smokers are also more likely to develop cervical cancer and are less likely to overcome HPV infection which can develop into cancer.
Smoking during pregnancy can also lead to miscarriage, premature birth, stillbirth and illness as well as increasing the risk of cot death.
Reversing The Effects
Giving up smoking is a long and difficult process even with support and nicotine replacement therapies like gum, patches and vaping. But the effort is worth is as your body can recover from a lot of the damage smoking has done and your chances of dying from smoking related illnesses drop dramatically over time.
After just twenty minutes, pulse rate and blood pressure drop back to normal, putting less pressure on your heart.
Within eight hours the amount of nicotine and carbon monoxide in your blood is reduced by half. Carbon monoxide makes it harder for your blood to carry oxygen around the body, forcing your heart to pump faster to supply your organs with the oxygen they need to stay alive.
Around eight hours is also when cravings commonly start.
In just twelve hours after stopping smoking the carbon monoxide in your blood is back to normal levels. And after twenty-four hours your chances of suffering a heart attack have reduced significantly.
After two days your body is free of nicotine and your sense of taste and smell become sharper again. The symptoms of withdrawal, including headaches, dizziness anxiety and depression, will become worse at this stage.
Three days after you’ve stopped smoking your lungs will begin to recover and breathing will become easier.
For the next few weeks your lungs and blood flow will continue to improve and the chances of you suffering from a heart attack are reduced further.
After two or three months the worst symptoms of withdrawal will pass although cravings are likely to continue.
Breathing will become easier over the next few months as the lungs recover. This means that you’ll get fewer colds, have more energy and be able to exercise more without becoming winded.
Adding To Life Expectancy
One year after giving up smoking your risk of heart disease is half of what it was when you were a smoker.
After five years of quitting the risk of stroke and cervical cancer will have dropped to the same level as a non-smoker. You’re also fifty percent less likely to develop cancer of the mouth, throat, oesophagus or bladder than you were as a smoker.
In ten years you’ll be half as likely to die from lung cancer and significantly less likely to develop cancer of the larynx or pancreas. And fifteen years after quitting your chances of getting heart disease have reduced to the same level as a non-smoker.
Giving up smoking is a big challenge, but there are huge rewards when it comes to health and life expectancy.