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Six health harms that you are more prone to develop when you smoke

Tell any smoker of the harm that smoking can cause their bodies and they’ll often be the first to boast that they are fit as a fiddle and that they’ve not experienced any health worries of late.

For years we’ve been told that smoking causes diseases like lung cancer and emphysema but there are so many other conditions that smoking can cause.

Here’s a few other conditions that smokers are more prone to develop than non-smokers.

1. An increased risk of heart disease

Cardiovascular disease is still the world’s number one killer, claiming nearly 17, 7 million lives every year. In South Africa, the death rate for heart disease and stroke follows HIV and AIDS. In fact of the 43% of all deaths in South Africa which is as a result of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), 18% is due to cardiovascular disease.

Tobacco smoking triples the risk of a person having a heart attack and doubles the risk of a person having a stroke. Globally one in eight deaths are tobacco related. In South Africa one in every five deaths are caused by cardiovascular disease, amounting to about 82 000 people each year.

The 37% of men and 7% of women who smoke are increasing their risk of developing cardiovascular disease substantially. In addition, those affected by second hand smoke are at an increased risk for cardiovascular disease as well.

Hypertension -- or raised blood pressure -- is related to 13% of all deaths globally and is prevalent in one in three adults in South Africa. Often described as the “silent killer”, it is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke as 50% of people don't know they are hypertensive.

2. Diabetes

Research shows that smokers are between 30% and 40% more likely to develop diabetes. And the bad news is that the more cigarettes smokers have, the higher their risk of developing this condition.

3. A chronic cough

Many smokers develop a cough, which is the result of their bodies clearing out chemicals in their airways and lungs. Sometimes the cough will be a dry one but it could eventually produce phlegm. The cough could be a sign of something more serious conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, or lung cancer.

In addition to the cough people often also experience chest pain, shortness of breath and cough up coloured mucus.

4. A decline in your mental health

Smoking may not affect you now but studies have shown that as smokers get older, they face mental decline at a faster pace than those who don’t indulge. It is harmful to the brain and speeds up onset of Alzheimer's disease

Smoking likely puts into effect a vicious cycle of artery damage, clotting and increased risk of stroke, causing mental decline

5. Gum disease

Smokers are between two and four times more likely to develop gum disease. Research shows that smoking may cause nearly 75% of gum disease in adults. This is primarily because the nicotine and toxins in smoke changes the way that the soft tissue and bone attach to the teeth -- and as a result smokers develop gum disease.

But the bigger problem is that because smoking constricts the blood flow to the mouth, the normal symptoms of gum disease (like red, swollen and bleeding gums) are unlikely to show. This means that many smokers walk around for years with untreated gum disease. And this, in turn, leads to them losing their teeth. Studies show that years of smoking has been linked to people having higher numbers of missing teeth.

6. A raised risk of autoimmune diseases

Smoking cigarettes raises the risk of developing lupus a chronic autoimmune disease that can cause inflammation, pain, and tissue damage throughout the body. Although some people with lupus have mild symptoms, it can become quite severe.

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