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How smoking affects your body

March 9, 2016

Half of smokers will die from a smoking-related disease in England, accounting for more than 100,000 deaths each year. Here are just some of the ways smoking can damage your body.

Brain - If you smoke, you are more likely to have a stroke than someone who doesn't smoke. In fact, smoking increases your risk of having a stroke by at least 50%, which can cause brain damage and death. And, by smoking, you double your risk of dying from a stroke.

One way that smoking can increase your risk of a stroke is by increasing your

 

chances of developing a brain aneurysm. This is a bulge in a blood vessel caused by a weakness in the blood vessel wall. This can rupture or burst which will lead to an extremely serious condition known as a subarachnoid haemorrhage, which is a type of stroke, and can cause extensive brain damage and death.

Mouth and throat - Smoking causes unattractive problems such as bad breath and stained teeth, and can also cause gum disease and damage your sense of taste.

The most serious damage smoking causes in your mouth and throat is an increased risk of cancer in your lips, tongue, throat, voice box and gullet; more than 93% of which are caused by smoking.

Lungs - Coughs, colds, wheezing and asthma are just the start; smoking can cause fatal diseases such as pneumonia, emphysema and lung cancer. 84% of deaths from lung cancer and 83% of deaths from chronic obstructive lung disease (including bronchitis) are caused from smoking.

Heart - Smoking damages your heart and your blood circulation, increasing the risk of conditions such as coronary heart disease, heart attack, stroke, peripheral vascular disease and cerebrovascular disease. Carbon monoxide from the smoke and nicotine also put a strain on the heart by making it work faster. Other chemicals in cigarette smoke damage the lining of your coronary arteries, leading to furring of the arteries.

In fact, smoking doubles your risk of having a heart attack, and if you smoke you have twice the risk of dying from coronary heart disease than lifetime non-smokers.

Stomach - Smokers have an increased chance of getting stomach cancer or ulcers. Smoking can weaken the muscle that controls the lower end of your gullet (oesophagus) and allow acid from the stomach to travel in the wrong direction back up your gullet, a process known as reflux.

Smoking is a significant risk factor for developing kidney cancer, and the more you smoke the greater the risk. For example, research has shown that if you regularly smoke 10 cigarettes a day, you are one and a half times more likely to develop kidney cancer compared with a non-smoker. This is increased to twice as likely if you smoke 20 or more cigarettes a day.

Bones - Smoking can cause your bones to become weak and brittle. Women need to be especially careful as they are more likely to suffer from brittle bones (osteoporosis) than non-smokers.

Skin - Smoking reduces the amount of oxygen that gets to your skin. This means that if you smoke, your skin ages more quickly and looks grey and dull. The toxins in your body also cause cellulite.

Smoking prematurely ages your skin by between 10 and 20 years, and makes it three times more likely you'll get facial wrinkling, particularly around the eyes and mouth. Smoking even gives you a sallow, yellow-grey complexion and hollow cheeks, which can cause you to look gaunt.

When you stop smoking…

  • Your health improves and your body will begin to recover.

  • You can greatly reduce your risk of developing head and neck cancer, even after many years of use. Once you've been smoke free for 20 years, your risk of head and neck cancer is reduced to that of a non-smoker.

  • After only one year of not smoking, your risk of heart conditions is reduced by half. After stopping for 15 years, your risk is similar to that of someone who has never smoked.

  • Your risk of stroke is reduced to half that of a non-smoker within two years, and within five it will be the same as a non-smoker.

  • You will prevent further deterioration to your skin caused by smoking.

 
Know anyone in your workplace who smokes? Encourage them to take up the challenge and quit smoking and join the thousands of people who are all committed to stop!

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