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6 Harmful Effects Of Smoking On Your Overall Health

Smoking negatively affects your body in several ways. Here are some of these listed below.

6 Harmful Effects Of Smoking On Your Overall Health

Smoking can lead to build-up of plaque in the blood stream

Tobacco is extremely harmful for the health. When tobacco is burnt and the smoke from that is inhaled - it is known as smoking. Consisting of over 7,000 carcinogens, tobacco smoke kills over 8 million people every year. Over 7 million of these deaths are the result of direct tobacco use while around 1.2 million are the result of non-smokers being exposed to second-hand smoke.

Smoking affects all the major systems of the body:

1. It causes the build-up of plaque in the blood stream which can block arteries, reducing the blood flow to the heart, causing heart attacks

2. It causes the growth of abnormal cells throughout the body - leading to various types of cancers

3. It can adversely impact and limit one's ability to breathe properly by constricting the airways. Respiratory diseases, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema, chronic bronchitis, are a result of smoking. These diseases can make it difficult to breathe and can cause chronic coughing, wheezing, and chest pain

4. Smoking can also lead to a plethora of pregnancy complications such as low birth weight in babies, restricted blood flow to the uterus, increased risk of miscarriage, premature birth, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)

5. It can also cause gum disease, tooth loss, and bad breath. The chemicals in tobacco smoke can irritate the gums and cause inflammation, which can lead to bleeding, gum recession, and eventually tooth loss

6. Smoking also increases the risk of age-related macular degeneration and cataracts. These eye diseases can cause vision loss and blindness, particularly in older adults

Smoking also affects the health of those around the smoker - they inhale second hand smoke and eventually suffer from the same health issues as the smoker. This is especially important when it comes to children who have parents who smoke. Their (the children's) respiratory system tends to weaken at an early stage - while it is still developing. They are prone to more ear infections and illnesses. They also tend to take up the habit earlier - having seen it during their formative years.

When a person stops smoking, their heart rate and blood pressure drop within 20 minutes. In 12 hours, the level of carbon monoxide in their body returns to normal. In 2 weeks, their lung function increases, their circulation becomes normal. In 9 months, their coughing lessens and shortness of breath decreases. In a year's time their risk of coronary heart disease is halved. 5 years after a person stop smoking their stroke risk is reduced to that of a non-smoker. After 10 years, their risk of lung cancer falls to about half that of a smoker and at 15 years, the risk of coronary heart disease is that of a non-smoker.

Therefore, it is important for stakeholders across the healthcare ecosystem to create awareness around the ills associated with smoking, enable young adults to make health positive choices, delay initiation into the habit and encourage the adoption of alternatives for stress management.

(Dr. Vivek Singh, Director, Respiratory and Sleep Medicine, Medanta, Gurugram)

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