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The real health impact of smoking

Smoking 2

 

Smoking – is it time for you to quit?

Ever feel that you are being constantly being pestered by family and friends to give up smoking? You most likely know the health risks and may have tried several times already to give up. However, be reassured, that it’s never too late to stop as studies show that people who quit after their mid-thirties recover an average of six hours of life for every day of smoking they avoid.[1]

Why should I quit?

According to Dr Emmajane Down, a London-based GP, smoking not only increases your risk of lung cancer, but could mean you are twice as likely to have a heart attack as non-smokers.[2] Smoking can also contribute to fertility problems, gum disease and COPD.

Is it too late to quit?

Professor Robert West, Professor of Health Psychology and Director of Tobacco Studies at University College London, says stopping smoking can even be beneficial to those already suffering from smoking-related diseases: ‘Even if smokers have a smoking-related disease, progression of the disease is slowed or reversed and quality of life is improved after quitting.’

If the time is right for you to quit smoking, Dr Emmajane Down says there are a few simple measures that can really help get you started and keep you on track:

  • First and foremost set a stop date in the future and stick to it.
  • Rally support from your family and friends who may want to stop with you.
  • Visit your doctor or local stop smoking clinic. They will be able to provide advice regarding the many quitting aids available to help you such as gum, tablets or inhalators.
  • Lastly and perhaps most importantly, don’t stop giving up. If you fail the first time, try again. Keep trying. It is never too late to save your life.

Read more on the health benefits of quitting smoking here. For more information on quitting, please visit our Quit Smoking centre for help and advice.

 

If you smoke, you probably already know that it’s a common cause of cancer, but have you ever considered precisely what other diseases and conditions you put yourself at risk of every time you light up? GP, Dr Emma-Jane Down gives an insight on the lesser known risks of smoking.

According to Cancer Research UK, over 100,000 UK deaths a year are linked to smoking. It is thought that smoking is the UK’s single biggest cause of preventable illness and early death with a quarter of smokers dying before their 70th birthday.

In recent years the links between smoking and cancer have been widely publicised and many have highlighted lung cancer as the primary health implication associated with smoking.

However, it is important to remember that smoking has been linked to over a dozen different types of cancers. Smokers could be heightening their risk of not only lung cancer but also cancer of the mouth, throat and gullet (oesophagus), says GP, Dr Emma-Jane Down.

 

Additional smoking risk factors

According to Dr Emma-Jane Down, smoking not only increases your risk of cancer but you are twice as likely to have a heart attack as non-smokers. In addition, the chemicals in tobacco smoke increase the levels of fats in the blood which can lead to a stroke.

Dr Down provides says that additional illnesses and conditions caused by smoking include:

  • Peripheral Vascular Disease: This is when the blood flow to the legs is blocked. It can lead to gangrene, after which amputation of the legs is often the only treatment.
  • Circulation Problems: Cold, blue fingers and toes in cold weather and Raynaud’s phenomenon, all of which are worse in smokers. Buerger’s disease mainly affects young men who smoke. It starts with painful fingers, toes or legs and then the toes and fingers become blue due to poor circulation. It can also lead to gangrene and amputation if the smoker continues to smoke.
  • COPD: (collection of lung diseases). Damaged lungs caused by smoking are responsible for 25,000 deaths each year in the UK. This disease is particularly horrible. Those with the condition experience worsening shortness of breath for many years which can eventually leave the patient housebound and connected to an oxygen tank. Repeated chest infections and hospital admissions ensue before a premature death.
  • Fertility Problems: Smoking causes low sperm levels in a man and makes pregnancy harder for women too.
  • Erectile Problems: Smoking causes blockages in the blood vessels supplying the penis and this can lead to erection problems and impotence that may not be treatable.
  • Gum Disease: This is far more common and severe in smokers. Smokers also loose teeth prematurely.
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis: Smoking is a risk factor for developing this chronic painful joint disease.
  • Ageing: Smokers look older than their age, developing wrinkles and lines on the face at an earlier age than non-smokers.
  • Earlier Menopause: Women smokers have the menopause on average two years earlier than non-smokers.

Quitting smoking: the health benefits

It can take a lot of willpower and repeated attempts to stop smoking but the benefits to be gained from quitting are huge. According to the NHS:

  • within hours your blood pressure and pulse can return to normal and your breathing could become easier;
  • after a year of quitting smoking the risk of heart attack will have halved; and
  • those who successfully quit smoking can find that within just 15 years their risk of a heart attack could have decreased to that of a non-smoker.

In addition, the US National Cancer Institute says that, within weeks, your circulation may improve and you may not cough or wheeze as often.

Take a look at our poster below on the benefits quitting smoking has on your body. Or you can download it as a PDF.smoking-benefits-of-quitting

 

If you are considering stopping smoking, Dr Emma-Jane Down says there are a few simple measures that can really help get you started and keep you on track:

If you are considering stopping smoking, Dr Emma-Jane Down says there are a few simple measures that can really help get you started and keep you on track:

  • First and foremost set a stop date in the future and stick to it.
  • Rally support from your family and friends who may want to stop with you.
  • Visit your doctor or local stop smoking clinic. They will be able to provide advice regarding the many quitting aids available to help you such as gum, tablets or inhalators.
  • Lastly and perhaps most importantly, don’t stop giving up. If you fail the first time, try again. Keep trying. It is never too late to save your life.

For more information on quitting smoking, read our article on ‘stopping those unhealthy addictions’ or our fact sheet on ‘smoking treatments'. And visit our Cancer Centre and Heart Centre for more information on the different types of conditions that are associated with smoking.

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