Kick that butt: 9 things you didn't know about smoking

  • Dr. Anurupa Roy, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Mar 12, 2015 14:18 IST

You've known for long that smoking causes lung cancer, bronchiitis and even emphysema (a condition which gradually damages the air sacs of your lungs, making you progressively more short of breath). What if we told you that your addiction to the nicotine stick has far bigger, even more dangerous, effects on your body? Here are ten oft ignored reasons why you should kick the butt immediately.

Smoking affects your bone health

Want to keep fit? Get this straight: Your habit of holding that roll of toxins can ruin everything. Cautions Dr Dilip Nadakarni from Mumbai's Lilavati Hospital, ''Osteoporosis and smoking have great connection. Nicotine, carbon monoxide and other toxins can affect bone health. Adolescents and peri-menopausal women are at great risk.''

Successive researches suggest that smoking increases muscular pain, mainly around the hips, knees and neck. This is because nicotine alters brain's perception of pain.

Smoking also makes your heart beat faster (because of the stimulating effect of nicotine), increases blood pressure and decreases the supply of oxygen to the blood cells (which affects the muscles). In addition, the phlegm and tar in tobacco messes up with the cleaning mechanisms of the lungs and increases airway resistance. All these factors together cause a decrease in muscle mass and energy. Also, smokers produce a hormone, myostatin, a potent inhibitor of muscle protein synthesis that affects muscle mass.

Smoking makes your blood more sticky

Indeed, you've known for long that smoking causes, even aggravates, heart diseases. It increases blood pressure, heart rate and pulse rate. Here's how it works: The carbon monoxide from the smoke reduces the blood's capacity to carry oxygen to the heart and other organs, causing angina or chest pain, aneurysm, stroke and gangrene. It changes the properties of blood, making it more sticky. The ill-effects of smoking doesn't end here: Your addiction to nicotine alters the HDL cholesterol and other fatty substances level in the blood, increasing the chances of atherosclerosis (hardening and narrowing of blood vessels), which eventually leads to heart attack.

Forget dry eyes. Smoking can lead to cataract

The primary effects of smoking are itchiness, dryness, redness and irritation to the surface of the eyes. On smoking, chemicals enter your blood stream and produce many bi-products. It also affects the eye lens and can cause cataract -- particularly nuclear cataract. Pregnant women exposed to smoke are more likely to give birth to babies with a disease known as 'retinopathy of prematurity'.

Says Dr S. Dhawan, head of the opthalmology department in Fortis, Gurgaon, "Smoking and its products have shown a direct relation with cataract development and toxic optic neuropathy in both active and passive smokers. It is linked to the rising of intra ocular pressure and damaging antioxidants which are necessary to keep eye lens healthy."

Tobacco's toxins can damage the genetic material in sperm cells

Men who smoke have a significantly higher risk of developing impotency (erectile dysfunction) than non-smokers. Studies also suggest that nicotine causes temporary constriction of penile arteries that affects blood flow to the penis. Smoking also leads to lower levels of testosterone, sperm count,libido and the volume of semen. Toxins found in tobacco, including cadmium, nicotine, benzopyrene and related by-products, can damage the genetic material in sperm cells. Though penile cancer is rare, it is found to be related with those diagnosed with the disease.

Smoking causes wrinkles, even change skin colour

Smoking leads to a wrinkled skin, even changing its colour. The skin around the mouth usually gets wrinkled, and the skin around the eyes develops lines much faster than a non-smoker. Smoking causes narrowing of blood vessels in the outer layer of the skin providing less oxygen and nutrients necessary to maintain its collagen and elastin fibers, leaving it saggy.

Smoking leads to bad breath, discoloured teeth, build plaque and tartar...

The sheer number of problems smoking causes to your oral cavity should make you quit your habit rightaway. It causes bad breath, discolouration of teeth, inflammation of the salivary glands and build-up of plaque and tartar on the teeth. Most importantly, it increases the risk of developing gum disease (shifts the equilibrium of microbes in the oral cavity towards disease causing microbes, a leading cause of tooth loss). It also increases risk of leukoplakia or white patches inside the mouth. It delays healing process following tooth extraction, periodontal treatment, or oral surgery. And yes, oral cancer that tops it all.

Smoking makes your body more toxic

Increasing number of researches support that smoking suppresses our innate and adaptive immune system that helps our body to fight against various diseases. Also a smoker's body is more toxic due to inhalation of toxic products into the blood stream, thus liver is stressed making body more prone to diseases. It is also found that a smoker's body contains more auto-antibodies making it more prone to certain autoimmune diseases.

Smoking adversely affects wound healing

Wound healing plays an important role in the success of many forms of treatment and smoking is seen to have reversible but adverse effects on wound healing clinically. Among the many mechanisms that are responsible for delayed wound healing, few of them involve transient effect on tissue micro environment and prolonged effect on inflammatory cell functions.

Lung cancer? Think bladder, breast, pancreas, stomach... cancers too Lung cancer is not the only cancer caused by smoking. Almost every part of the body can be affected. Your bladder, breast, stomach, pancreas, ovary, can get affected too.

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