Weekly Wellness: It's time to stop. For good.
COLUMBIA - We have known about the health risks associated with smoking for many (many) years now. But, for some reason, those little white cancer sticks are still being bought, sold and smoked.
Smoking is the most preventable cause of premature death in the United States. Smoking by itself increases the risk of coronary heart disease. Smoking decreases your tolerance for physical activity and increases the tendency for blood to clot. It decreases HDL (good) cholesterol. Your risks increase greatly if you smoke and have a family history of heart disease. Smoking also creates a higher risk for peripheral artery disease and aortic aneurysm. It increases the risk of recurrent coronary heart disease after bypass surgery, too.
Smoking is also an important risk factor for stroke. Inhaling cigarette smoke produces several effects that damage the cardiovascular system. Women who take oral contraceptives and smoke increase their risk of stroke many times. Cigars and pipes aren't a "safer" alternative to cigarettes. People who smoke cigars or pipes also have a higher risk of cardiovascular disease and death than non-smokers.
It's not just about your smoking. The link between secondhand smoke and disease is well known, and the connection to cardiovascular-related disability and death is also clear. Each year about 34,000 adults die from heart and blood vessel disease caused by other people's smoke. The risk of stroke for nonsmokers who are exposed to secondhand smoke is increased by an estimated 20-30 percent.
But we've known about the connection between smoking and Lung cancer, emphysema, and heart disease for a long time. And we're still smoking. So maybe you need some more reasons? How about these?
Alzheimer's Disease: In the elderly years, the rate of mental decline is up to five times faster in smokers than in nonsmokers, according to a study of 9,200 men and women over age 65. participants took standardized tests used to detect mental impairment when they entered the study and again two years later. Higher rates of mental decline were found in men and women -- and in persons with or without a family history of dementia or Alzheimer's disease, the researchers reported in the March issue of the journal Neurology.
Lupus: Smoking cigarettes raises the risk of developing lupus -- but quitting cuts that risk, an analysis of nine studies shows. Systemic lupus erythematosus (lupus) is a chronic autoimmune disease that can cause inflammation, pain, and tissue damage throughout the body. Harvard researchers reviewed studies that examined the relationship between cigarette smoking and lupus. Among current smokers, there was "a small but significant increased risk" for the development of lupus, they report. Former smokers did not have this increased risk, according to the study, which appeared in the March issue of Arthritis & Rheumatism.
SIDS: Smoking increases the risk of suffer infant death syndrome (SIDS). Researchers compared 745 SIDS cases with more than 2,400 live babies for comparison and concluded that just under half of all deaths were attributable to infants sleeping on their stomachs or sides. Roughly 16% of SIDS deaths were linked to bed sharing, but for unknown reasons, bed sharing was particularly risky when the mother smoked. The risk was very small when mothers did not smoke during pregnancy, the researchers say.
Colic: Exposure to tobacco smoke may increase babies' risk of colic, according to a review of more than 30 studies on the topic.
Blindness: Smokers are four times more likely to become blind because of age-related macular degeneration than those who have never smoked. But quitting can lower that risk, other research shows. Age-related macular degeneration is a severe and progressive condition that results in loss of central vision. It results in blindness because of the inability to use the part of the retina that allows for 'straight-ahead' activities such as reading, sewing, and even driving a vehicle. While all the risk factors are not fully understood, research has pointed to smoking as one major and modifiable cause.
Rheumatoid Arthritis: People whose genes make them more susceptible to developing rheumatoid arthritis are even more likely to get the disease if they smoke, say Swedish researchers. In fact, certain genetically vulnerable smokers can be nearly 16 times more likely to develop the disease than nonsmokers without the same genetic profile, according to the study in the October issue of the journal Arthritis & Rheumatism.
Snoring: Smoking, or living with a smoker, can cause snoring, according to a study of more than 15,000 men and women. Habitual snoring (defined as loud and disturbing snoring at least three nights per week) affected 24% of smokers, 20% of ex-smokers, and almost 14% of people who had never smoked. The more people smoked, the more frequently they snored, the researchers reported in the October issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.
Why is it important to stop now? Believe it or not, your lungs can begin to heal themselves as soon as yous top harming them with more smoke.