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10 Ways Smoking Affects the Body





By: Debbie Oates, NP, nurse navigator, Lung Nodule Center, MemorialCare Todd Cancer Institute, Long Beach Memorial


The health risks you have accumulated from smoking never disappear. However, quitting will help decrease your risk for things like lung cancer, heart disease and diabetes. In addition to damaging the lungs, smoking can negatively impact the entire body in ways that might surprise you. Here are 10 ways smoking affects the body.


  1. Lung Cancer: It has been estimated that active smoking is responsible for close to 90 percent of lung cancer cases. After being smoke free for 10 years, your risk of dying from lung cancer is cut in half. Preventing lung cancer is better than finding it early and smoking is the most important risk factor for lung cancer that can be modified.
  2. Poor Vision: Smoking significantly increases the chance of developing cataracts, which can lead to blindness or poor night vision.
  3. Mood Stimulation: The surge of energy from smoking is due to a nervous system stimulant, which also can make you addicted.
  4. Bronchitis: Smokers aren’t the only ones who have a higher rate of bronchitis – children of smokers do too.
  5. Blood Clots: Blood clots increase risk of heart damage and stroke.
  6. Constricted Blood Vessels: Nicotine causes blood vessels to tighten and restrict blood flow, which is bad for your heart and brain.
  7. Blood Cancer: Smokers are more likely than nonsmokers to develop cancers of the blood.
  8. Heart Disease: Smokers and nonsmokers who are regularly exposed to secondhand smoke are at risk of heart attack and heart disease. Within one year of quitting, your risk of a heart attack drops significantly and after 15 years, your risk of heart attack is back to that of a nonsmoker’s.
  9. Diabetes: Smokers are at risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. Diabetes tends to progress more rapidly in smokers than in nonsmokers.
  10. High Cholesterol: Tobacco smoke steals your good cholesterol and it becomes more likely that your bad cholesterol will build up.

If you have a history of smoking, you may be eligible for a lung cancer screening. Screening results in a minimal amount of radiation exposure and helps detect lung cancer at the most curable stage. Research has shown that an annual screening at an accredited screening center for those at high-risk prevents 1 in 5 deaths from lung cancer.

The MemorialCare Todd Cancer Institute at Long Beach Memorial offers a comprehensive Lung Cancer Screening Program. For more information about the Lung Cancer Screening Program, call 800-MEMORIAL or visit MemorialCare.org/LungScreening.