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By Allianz Worldwide Care | May 26, 2017
On average, smokers will die 10 years earlier than non-smokers. By quitting, smokers lower their risk for smoking-related diseases and can add years to their lives.
Smoking damages almost every organ of the body and affects a person’s overall health. It is a prime cause of lung cancer but is also a known risk factor for cancer in many parts of the body, including:
Smoking damages the heart in several ways. The carbon monoxide in tobacco smoke reduces the amount of oxygen in blood, and may contribute to the development of coronary heart disease and possible heart attacks.
Smoking also damages the lining of arteries, leading to a build-up of fatty material (atheroma) which narrows the artery and reduces blood flow to the heart, this can cause angina or a heart attack.
Smokers are more likely to have a stroke, than non-smokers. If a clot forms in an artery leading to the brain, it can then cause a blockage, cutting off the blood supply and causing a stroke.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
Cigarette smoke damages the tissues of the lungs, leading to overproduction of mucus. Chronic bronchitis occurs when the airways in your lungs have become narrow and partly clogged with mucus.
People who suffer from chronic bronchitis cough more, experience breathlessness and are also more at risk of developing chest infections and pneumonia.
Tobacco smoke also damages the air sacs in the lungs. Over time this leads to progressive loss of lung function and a condition known as emphysema. As the disease progresses, breathing becomes a major effort and may require supplementary oxygen.
Fertility levels and birth problems
Smoking can reduce fertility, and smoking during pregnancy can lead to miscarriage and illness in infancy.
The health risks and associated consequences of smoking are well documented, yet there are over 1 billion smokers globally and every day approximately 15 billion cigarettes are sold.
Knowing the reasons why you continue to smoke, can help you quit.
The primary reason smokers continue to smoke is addiction. Cigarettes contain nicotine, a highly addictive substance found naturally in tobacco. It travels quickly to the brain when it is inhaled, causing a feeling of relaxation.
The relaxing effects from nicotine are temporary. When the body rids itself of nicotine, it experiences withdrawal and craves another cigarette. Creating a cycle of dependency.
Nicotine withdrawal symptoms include:
Many smokers use cigarettes as a stress reliever and an aid to help them cope in difficult situations, however nicotine can actually increase stress and cause agitation. Nicotine cravings cause additional stress as your body experiences withdrawal.
It’s important to look for healthy ways to handle stress and take care of yourself without smoking.
It’s never too late to quit smoking. The sooner you quit, the more you can reduce your chances of getting cancer and other diseases.
Quitting while you're younger will reduce your health risks more, but quitting at any age can give back years of life that would be lost by continuing to smoke.
Within 1 week of quitting
Within 1 month of quitting
Within 1 year of quitting
Within 5 years of quitting
Within 10 years of quitting
Within 15 years of quitting
Quit for a reasonOften our personal motivations in deciding to quit cigarettes will be the single most important factor in not having another cigarette and becoming a non-smoker.
Bin the paraphernaliaGet rid of ashtrays, lighters and any cigarettes you still have lying around. You don’t want any reminders. Don’t be tempted to keep some cigarettes ‘just in case’, it will only make giving in to temptation that bit easier.
Speak to your doctorYour doctor will be able to advise on the various smoking cessation medications and therapies available to you.
Ask your friends and family for helpLet your friends and family know you are quitting and seek their support. You will find that they can be a great source of encouragement when you feel tempted to smoke.
Don’t get hung up on weight gainMany smokers are reluctant to try and quit as they fear gaining weight as a result. Although some people may gain a few pounds in the effort to quit smoking, the resultant health benefits of being a non-smoker far outweigh the additional pounds.
Eat lots of Fruit and VegYour appetite may increase while you are in the process of quitting cigarettes, keep healthy snacks or gum to hand and drink plenty of water. Snacking on healthy foods can be a useful way to curb cravings.
Fill the voidSmoking is as much a habit as an addiction. Be prepared for how you will fill the void or occupy yourself at those times of the day when you would normally light up. Maybe taking a walk after lunch or calling a friend during coffee break, whatever gets you through the next ten minutes without smoking. Remember that a craving will pass whether you indulge it or not.
Avoid the triggersMany people don’t succeed in giving up because they don’t take steps to avoid their smoking triggers during the initial stages of quitting.
Reward yourselfSmoking is an expensive habit, as you quit, keep track of how much money you haven’t spent and think about how you would like to spend it. Set yourself a target and reward yourself with a little retail therapy. There are apps that can help with this.
Keep tryingOn average, people who eventually stop smoking have made three or four previous attempts. So, if you aren’t successful this time, have a think about why your attempt to quit didn’t work out and how you can succeed next time. Stay positive, learn from your previous attempt, set a date in the near future to work towards and try to quit again.
E-cigarettes are battery-operated smoking devices which heat the liquid in cartridges filled with chemicals, and convert it into a vapor that's inhaled by the user.
Although they do not produce tobacco smoke, e-cigarettes still contain nicotine and other potentially harmful chemicals.
While several studies have found that e-cigarettes produce lower levels of carcinogens when compared to smoke emitted by traditional cigarettes, very little is really known about the health risks of using them.
Due to the lack of scientific evidence on the health effects of using e-cigarettes, for now, they cannot be recommended as a safe and helpful way to quit smoking.
Quitting smoking is hard. The path to becoming a non-smoker is different for each individual and can be difficult. It requires perseverance, commitment and an abundance of will power. However, thousands of people successfully quit smoking every day.
If you are a smoker, right now is a great time to quit. By tomorrow you’ll already start to feel the benefits.
If you have questions about the effects of smoking or would like some advice on quitting, talk to your doctor.
If you are living or working overseas and require international health insurance, contact Allianz Worldwide Care for a quote.
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