Health & Fitness

Doc Talk: How smoking harms the body

If you’re a smoker, you probably know you should stop. That’s 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.

An alarming fact is that smoking affects nearly every part of your body, including your:

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Airways.

Delicate tissues in your lungs become inflamed because of smoking. This can lead to serious disorders, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Smoking can also cause cancer to develop in your lungs, throat and mouth.



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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.



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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, kidney disease and gangrene leading to amputation.



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Brain.

Blood clots that form in damaged arteries can travel to your brain and cause potentially fatal strokes.



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Bones and tendons.

Smoking increases the risk for osteoporosis – weak bones – and fractures in both men and women. Overuse injuries, such as tendonitis, and traumatic injuries, such as sprains, are also more likely among smokers, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.



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Immune system.

Some of the cells that destroy germs in the body are less likely to be found in smokers than in nonsmokers. 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 Sudden Infant Death Syndrome than babies whose mothers don’t smoke.

Turn your risks around:

There’s another list that’s 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.

Ask your doctor about the many options to help you quit smoking for good. When you quit, your health risks decrease immediately and continue to diminish over time, no matter how long you’ve smoked. The National Tobacco Quitline can also help you quit for good. Call 800-QUIT-NOW (800-784-8669).

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