Smoking: Not Just Harmful to Your Lungs and Heart
How Cigarettes Affect Nearly Every Part of Your Body
by Annie Stuart
Cigarettes’ harmful claim to fame isn’t limited to your lungs or your heart. How does smoking hurt your body? Let us take a look at the ways cigarettes attack the body and you’ll have a better idea. Smoking not only cuts lives short, but greatly decreases quality of life as well.
Most cigarettes contain over 4,000 chemicals, including “human-friendly” ones like cyanide and formaldehyde. Sixty of these chemicals are known to cause cancer. The list of smoking-related cancers keeps growing and includes:
Heart and Blood Vessels
Blood carries cigarette poisons throughout the circulatory system. Among other effects, these poisons damage and narrow blood vessels, increasing the heart rate while decreasing the flow of oxygen to the rest of the body. These are a few of the cardiovascular conditions smoking contributes to:
Chemicals in cigarettes irritate air passages and lungs. They slow—and eventually stop—the cleansing action in the lungs, so poisons can remain there. Lungs become vulnerable to problems like these:
Bones, Joints, and Muscles TOP
By reducing blood supply, smoking weakens both muscles and bones. It also slows the production of bone-forming cells and keeps your body from absorbing calcium. Here are some of the effects:
Digestive System TOP
Smoking hurts the digestive system, which means the body doesn’t get the nutrients it needs. Smoking does this by:
Smokers notice the change in their brains almost the minute they light up. Smoking quickly changes brain chemistry, affecting mood and often leading to addiction. Brain chemistry changes, as well as decreased blood flow, increase the risk for:
Other Effects TOP
Need to hear more? Smokers are at increased risk of developing the most common type of diabetes. These are a few of smoking’s other effects:
And Now for the Good News TOP
The benefits of quitting begin almost immediately. Heart rate drops within minutes. Circulation and breathing improve within months. And, among other improvements, your risk of stroke much lower after five years of quitting. Although it’s best to quit when you’re younger, you can benefit at any age.
American Cancer Society
American Lung Association
National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion
National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC)
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Last reviewed November 2011 by Brian Randall, MD
Last Updated: 11/17/2011