image Cigarettes’ harmful claim to fame isn’t limited to your lungs, heart, or blood vessels. Did you know that smoking is the most preventable cause of death in the US? Over 440,000 deaths per year are associated with smoking. Smoking not only cuts lives short, but it greatly decreases quality of life.

How else does smoking hurt your body? Let's take a look, so you will have a better idea.

Cancer

Smoking is a leading cause of many types of cancers. Exposure to the harsh chemicals in tobacco affect the all of the body's cells. Most cigarettes contain over 4,000 chemicals, including cyanide and formaldehyde. Nearly 70 of these chemicals are known to cause cancer.

The list of smoking-related cancers includes:

    
  • Lung
  • Colon and/or rectal
  • Lip, mouth, pharynx, larynx, and esophageal
  • Cervical, ovarian and uterine
  • Bladder and kidney
  • Stomach
  • Pancreatic
  • Some types of leukemias—cancers of the blood
  • Bones, Joints, and Muscles

    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:

        
  • Increased risk for bone fractures, which also take longer to heal
  • Higher complication rate after surgeries
  • Increased risk of overuse injuries, such as bursitis, and a greater chance of sprains
  • Association with low back pain and rheumatoid arthritis, a progressive disease that causes joint destruction
  • Digestive System

    Smoking hurts the digestive system, which means the body doesn’t get the nutrients it needs. Some digestive conditions include:

        
  • Heartburn—Injury to the esophagus allows for reflux of stomach acids back into the esophagus, also increasing the risk of esophageal cancer.
  • Peptic ulcers—Increased acidity increases the risk for an infection that leads to open sores in the stomach or small intestine, causing pain and discomfort.
  • Crohn’s disease—Leads to inflammation in the lining of the intestines, causing abdominal pain, severe diarrhea, vomiting, and weight loss.
  • Altered liver function—Changes the way the liver handles drugs and alcohol, which can lead to liver disease.
  • Brain

    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:

        
  • Stroke—double that of nonsmokers
  • Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease
  • Depression, especially in women
  • Other Effects

    Smokers are at increased risk of developing the most common type of diabetes.

    Here are a few of smoking’s other effects:

        
  • Reduced sense of smell and taste
  • Premature skin aging from reduced blood flow and vitamins
  • Increased risk for gum disease
  • Increased risk for cloudy lens in the eye, called cataract, a leading cause of blindness
  • Increased risk for impotence, infertility, and problems during pregnancy and delivery
  • In babies of smoking mothers—increased risk for low birth weight, asthma and reduced lung function, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
  • Menopause at an earlier age; increased number of menopausal symptoms
  • And Now for the Good News

    The benefits of quitting begin almost immediately. Your heart rate and blood pressure drop within minutes. Your circulation and breathing improve within weeks. 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.