We've all heard that smoking is bad for us and it's best to avoid this habit if we want to stay healthy in the long term. But aside from lung problems, smoking can have adverse effects on our health in ways that we might not even realise.
Below are some of the more surprising ways that smoking can damage your body.
There is a strong link between smoking and age-related macular degeneration, the most common form of blindness. ARMD leads to a loss of 'central vision', which is essential for seeing detail and tasks such as reading, driving and recognizing faces. It does not cause complete blindness, but once visual loss occurs it cannot usually be reversed.
ARMD usually affects people over the age of 50. Numerous studies show that smoking can increase the risk of ARMD, and smokers may develop the disease 10 years earlier than non-smokers.
Every time you smoke a cigarette you're inhaling numerous substances into your body, including nicotine. Many of these are "ototoxic", meaning they can impair your hearing and cause tinnitus. Statistics show that smokers are over 70% more likely than non-smokers to experience hearing loss. The nicotine and carbon monoxide in cigarettes restricts blood flow and reduces oxygen supply to the inner ear.
Nicotine can also affect the neurotransmitters in the auditory nerve, making it more difficult for the brain to process sounds. Smoking also encourages free radicals to develop in the body, speeding up the damage to tissue and hair cells in the inner ear.
Chemicals in cigarette smoke can decrease sperm quality and speed up the loss rate of eggs. Women who smoke may not be able to conceive as efficiently while men may experience abnormally shaped sperm, decreasing their ability to fertilize eggs. Secondhand smoke can also expose you to poisonous chemicals that can affect your fertility and be as damaging as smoking yourself. There is evidence to suggest that smoking can increase the chances of miscarriage. If you're trying to get pregnant, giving up smoking should be your number one priority.
While smoking is often associated with weight loss due to nicotine suppressing appetite levels, smoking can affect your body shape and alter fat distribution. According to ASH, smokers tend to store fat around the waist and upper torso rather than the hips. This results in a high waist-to-hip ratio and this is associated with a higher risk of diabetes, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure and even breast cancer.
Smoking can weaken your immune system by depressing antibodies and the cells needed to protect you against foreign invaders. Many cancer-causing chemicals can travel into the bloodstream, damaging the organs and affecting the immune response. When less oxygen reaches the organs it can reduce their functioning and lead to infections. A weakened immune system can make it more difficult to get over illnesses.
For all of the above reasons, smoking can have a detrimental impact on your overall health and wellbeing – not just on your lungs. Smoking affects the entire body whether we realize it or not, and therefore If you want to stay healthy in the long-term, it's important to give up your smoking habit.
To find out more about the side effects of quitting smoking we have a hub of articles on how to quit smoking and the side effects.