Effects of Smoking We Don't Often Talk About

Smoking is most often associated with lung diseases. It’s the number one effect people point out to smokers. But how come some smokers stay disease-free even after years of the bad habit? That’s because lung diseases aren’t the only adverse effect of smoking.

Smokers without lung problems aren’t necessarily healthy. They might have another health problem, but we don’t associate it with their habit. So here are the lesser-known effects of smoking, giving you yet another reason to quit:

1. Hair Loss

Tobacco smoke can potentially damage your hair follicles and increase your risks for hair loss. A recent study has found that 425 out of 500 smokers have some degree of hair loss, compared to only 200 out of 500 non-smokers. Forty-seven percent of smokers had grade 3 hair loss, meaning a deep recession along the hairline. Twenty-four percent of smokers, meanwhile, had grade 4 hair loss, which is baldness at the vertex. Only 10% of non-smokers had grade 3 or 4 hair loss.

Smoking doesn’t directly cause hair loss. Rather, it’s the free radicals from smoking that lead to that effect. Smoking increases your body’s production of free radicals, resulting in oxidative stress. That’s the one that can potentially affect your hair follicles.

Besides that, smoking can also cause an early onset of gray hairs. A 2013 study found a link between the development of gray hairs before turning 30 and smoking. Hence, we could conclude that smoking accelerates aging.

2. Rheumatoid Arthritis

Another age-related problem, rheumatoid arthritis, was also found to have a link with smoking. Even though doctors don’t fully understand what causes rheumatoid arthritis, research identified smoking as one of the risk factors. Several studies found that smokers (especially those who smoked more than one pack of cigarettes every day for 2.5 years) had an increased risk for rheumatoid arthritis. Those who quit, on the other hand, reduced their risks.

Symptoms are painful joints, especially in the hands, where bony lumps may also grow. Even young adults can develop it, and more severely at that. If you feel any symptoms of the illness, get high-quality rheumatoid arthritis care immediately.

3. High Blood Pressure

We’ve always associated high blood pressure with fatty foods. It turns out that smoking can cause it, too. Nicotine increases your blood pressure and heart rate, narrows your arteries, and makes your blood prone to clotting. This stress on your cardiovascular system can raise your risks for a heart attack or stroke.

4. Depression

Smokers with mental troubles tend to view cigarettes as a relaxation tool. But in fact, clues suggest that smoking is a predisposing factor to depression. For instance, smokers are found to be twice as likely to be depressed than non-smokers. Some researchers, however, believe smoking may lead to depression, not that the depressed are more inclined to smoke.

As such, more research is needed to prove the connection between depression and smoking. What’s certain for now is that smoking doesn’t help ease your mental troubles. And, of course, smoking damages your overall health, which could affect your mental well-being.

5. Infertility

Nicotine can accelerate the rate at which egg cells die. Once that happens, the egg cells can’t regenerate or be replaced anymore. Hence, women who smoke can reach menopause one to four years earlier than normal.

On the other hand, male smokers might find their sperm quality poor and their sperm count lower. This will reduce their sperm’s ability to fertilize an egg cell.

Although smoking won’t make you completely unable to conceive, you may have more trouble achieving it than non-smokers. Infertility rates in male and female smokers are about twice as that in non-smokers. Your difficulty in conceiving increases the more cigarettes you smoke.

What if You Have Trouble Quitting?

Smoking isn’t easy to quit. It’s a form of addiction, even though you can still function normally. Remember, addiction doesn’t always have to make you hit rock-bottom. It starts when you become dependent on a substance and experience withdrawal symptoms without it.

If you can’t seem to stop smoking, talk to your doctor, and discuss alternatives to smoking that might ease your cravings. Those would be nicotine gums or patches, though they’re not healthy either. Still, they’re better than cigarettes.

Motivate yourself by listing down why you want to quit. Identify your triggers so that you won’t pick up a cigarette anymore. And most importantly, don’t give up; you may relapse, but you have to start again and persevere until you treat your addiction.

Find better hobbies, like reading, watching inspiring movies, or hanging out with people who support your decision to quit. Always remind yourself that a few minutes of comfort from a cigarette aren’t worth a battle against a serious illness.

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