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April 2011 | 0 Comments | Print
Family medicine

Board Certification

American Board of Family Practice

Education

University of Michigan School of Medicine

Residency

The Christ Hospital

Smoking drags down whole body

It seems appropriate that inhaling a puff of cigarette smoke is referred to as a drag. After all, every time a person lights up, they put every system of their body at risk for cancer and other chronic diseases.

“Most people who smoke tend to get an illness as a result of it,” says Jennifer White, M.D., family medicine physician with The Christ Hospital Medical Associates. “Cigarette smoke affects almost every system of the body, which reduces a person’s quality of life and impacts the lives of those around them.”

Although many Cincinnatians understand smoking is harmful to their health, The Health Foundation of Greater Cincinnati reports that 29 percent of the regional adult population still smokes. But why? It’s simple: cigarettes are addictive. With every puff, nicotine and hundreds of other cancer-causing chemicals enter the bloodstream and wreak havoc on the systems of the body. What’s worse is the strong physical, social and emotional addiction making it so difficult to quit.

Respiratory: “Carcinogens, or cancer-causing agents, and chemicals released in cigarette smoke deteriorate cells that help remove foreign matter out of the lining of the lungs, making smokers more susceptible to viruses, bacterial infections and allergies,” says Dr. White. In addition to lung disease and lung cancer, tar particles from smoke clog delicate lung tissue, triggering chronic bronchitis, emphysema, asthma attacks and shortness of breath.

Cardiovascular: Smoking creates a lack of oxygen in the blood that can lead to high blood pressure, blood clots, poor circulation, and rapid heart beat, all of which more than double a person’s risk of heart attack and stroke.

Digestive: While smoke enters your lungs, particles can also be swallowed and travel through your digestive tract. These toxins irritate the lining of the tract and increase the risk of oral, stomach and colon cancers; tooth decay; gum disease; gallstones; ulcers and Crohn’s disease flare ups.

Nervous: Oxidants in smoke also damage nerves, which can cause cataracts, macular degeneration (gradual blindness), loss of sense of smell and feeling in the fingertips and toes. If you’re worried about your appearance, smoking reduces the blood flow to your skin, causing wrinkles and skin discoloring.

Reproductive: Potential parents should put an end to the puffing. Infertility, erectile dysfunction, and dangerous pregnancy complications, such as low birth weight and increased chance of stillbirth or miscarriage, are all risks of smoking. Women who smoke may also undergo premature menopause compared to those who do not.

Secondhand smoke is just as dangerous

If you think your habit is just your problem alone, think again. “Secondhand smoke can cause a lot of the same diseases as smoking,” says Dr. White. Those close to a smoker, such as a spouse or child, are more prone to:

  • Ear and other head and neck infections
  • Colds
  • Asthma
  • Chronic respiratory diseases
  • Lung cancer & lung disease
  • Chronic bronchitis
  • Emphysema

Reducing your risks

“These health risks increase the longer and more often someone smokes,” Dr. White says. This is why healthcare screenings become more vital for smokers. “Since smoking increases all types of cancers, it is much more important that smokers follow routine screenings for cervical, breast and colon cancer,” says Dr. White. Male smokers over the age of 60 are also advised to have a more complete “triple-A screening” to check for aneurysms in the aorta or abdomen. Talk to your doctor about the right screenings for you.

Ready to quit? Follow these tips or seek help from your physician.

Find a physician who can help you kick the habit for good by calling 877-904-4YOU or visiting www.TheChristHospital.com.

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