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Published on July 23, 2018

Quit smoking. Your body will thank youQuit smoking. Your body will thank you

Most people know smoking is linked to lung cancer and emphysema. But did you know it can cause disability and illness throughout your body?

Here’s some of the damage smoking can do, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

  • Eyes: Doubles the risk of macular degeneration and double or triple the risk of developing cataracts, and raises the risk of retinopathy in diabetics.
  • Arms and legs: Causes Buerger’s disease, in which blood vessels swell and clots may form. Can lead to pain, cold hands and feet, amputation and death.
  • Heart and circulatory system: Causes chest pain, arrhythmia, heart attack, heart failure, strokes, narrower and thicker blood vessels, more plaque, lower HDL (“good” cholesterol), raises blood levels of triglycerides, infirmity, paralysis and death.
  • Fertility and pregnancy: Lowers sperm count and causes erectile dysfunction in men and may make it more difficult for women to conceive. Can cause babies to be born too small and prematurely, damage a baby’s lungs and brain, increase risk of birth defects and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
  • Lungs: Causes COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, including emphysema and some forms of asthma), which slowly destroys the ability to breathe and can progress to death, and 90 percent of lung cancer.
  • Teeth and gums: Doubles the risk of gum disease, in which gums may become swollen, painful and retract from teeth, which may become loose and painful.

Smoking can also cause cancer in your blood, bladder, cervix, esophagus, kidneys, larynx, liver, mouth and throat, pancreas, trachea and bronchi.

It also raises the risk of developing Type II diabetes, according to the American Lung Association. Since it hinders the body’s immune system, it makes it harder to fight infection and recover from illness. If you already have a chronic condition, such as diabetes, asthma or HIV, smoking will likely make it worse.

And those are just the highlights of what smoking and, in many instances, what exposure to second-hand smoke can do. It also costs the U.S. economy more than $300 billion annually in healthcare and lost productivity, according to the CDC Foundation, an independent nonprofit created by Congress to promote the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s work. The foundation says smokers each cost employers about $6,000 more a year than nonsmokers.

You Can Do It

Successful quitting is often motivated by a personal crisis or epiphany, said Darijan Suton, Cape Cod Healthcare Wellness Program manager.

“It can be a catastrophe, such as a heart attack, stroke or liver transplant,” he said.

One woman Suton knew quit after she learned her daughter in college had started smoking, and she wanted her daughter to stop.

If you’re considering quitting, the CDC has an online guide, which focuses on personal reasons and incentives to quit.  Among them are:

Why you want to quit and the rewards of not smoking

  • Making a plan, which may include nicotine-replacement therapy
  • Dealing with cravings and withdrawal
  • Reducing stress and other factors that may hamper quitting

Cape Cod Healthcare is in the process of revamping its smoking cessation program to be goal-oriented, in the hope it will attract more participation and more successful outcomes, Suton said.