Smoking and enjoying good health don’t go together. But despite this fact, experts say the number of smokers has continued to swell, with young adolescents taking to the dangerous habit with gusto.
“They see it as a rite of passage; while many see it as a way to be ‘cool.’ Yet, cigarette use is anything but cool, what with the toll it takes on health, with different consequences among the sexes,” says General Practitioner, Dr. Friday Odiase.
The girl and the stick
How does smoking affect the female body, you may ask? According to the online portal, girlshealth.gov, every part of a woman’s body pays the price for the unhealthy habit of smoking.
While smoking affects the health of any smoker, researchers warn that women stand greater risks in certain respects because of their biological make-up. The risks are numerous, experts say, and they include:
A new research published in the American Heart Association journal, Stroke, reveals that women smokers may be at greater risk for a more deadly and uncommon type of stroke.
Researchers compared data from more than 80 international studies that were published between 1966 and 2013, and found that smoking is linked to more than a 50 per cent greater risk of ischemic stroke the most common stroke — one that’s caused by a blood clot — in both men and women. However, for the more deadly type of stroke — one that is caused by a brain bleed, known as a hemorrhagic stroke — smoking resulted in a 17 per cent greater risk in women than in men.
The authors, Dr. Sanne Peters and Mark Woodward, suggest that the greater risk for bleeding stroke among women might be due to hormones and how nicotine impacts blood fats. “It seems that fats, cholesterol and triglycerides increase to a greater extent in women who smoke, compared with men who smoke, increasing their risk for coronary heart disease to a greater extent than in male smokers,” they enthuse.
The brain of any animal is the seat of intelligence, and it is one organ of the body that determines whether or not you stay alive. For instance, once the doctor declares an individual as brain dead, keeping him on life support becomes meaningless and all medical support is withdrawn at that point.
Physicians say when you smoke, you toy with your brain’s health. This is because nicotine — the substance that makes tobacco addictive — goes to your brain very quickly. Though nicotine makes the smoker feel good when she is smoking, it can also make her anxious, nervous, moody, and depressed afterwards.
Worse still, experts say, using tobacco can cause headaches and dizziness. Having a headache or feeling dizzy can be unsettling on its own, when combined, experts say, they’re even more perplexing.
Headache expert and director of the Headache Centre at the University of California, San Francisco, Dr. Peter Goadsby, notes that when you are dizzy, you may be feeling light-headedness as if you’re going to pass out; or you may feel a sense of movement, “like you might be spinning or the world might be spinning.”
The worst part is that these symptoms might be indicative of other underlying health conditions, which may be hidden because you are already engaged in unhealthy behaviour.
The teeth are sometimes described as “pearly whites,” indicative of how a healthy set of teeth should look. But then, tobacco stains your teeth, giving them brownish colour that is definitely unattractive. To boot, it also gives you bad breath!
Worse still, a nutritionist, Dr. Remi Omotunde, says smoking ruins the taste buds, such that the smoker won’t be able to taste her favourite foods. This may lead to bulimia anorexia — an eating disorder that is entirely unrelated to smoking but which happens to be a secondary fallout of the habit.
A health gum hovers between healthy pink and attractive red. However, smoking changes all that, besides causing bleeding gums and cancers of the mouth and throat, endocrinologists warn.
Cardiologists say a normal heart pumps approximately 4.7-5.7 litres of blood per minute throughout the blood vessels to various parts of the body by repeated, rhythmic contractions. Smoking impairs this function and rather increases your heart rate and blood pressure and causes heart disease and heart attacks. Worse still, if you try to do activities like exercise or play sports, your heart has to work harder to keep up. By the way, do you know of any athlete who is a smoker? Not any in the global arena where a perfectly healthy body is the least expected of any athlete!
Anatomically, physicians say, the lungs are one of the hardest-working organs in the body. They expand and contract up to 20 times a minute to supply oxygen to be distributed to the tissues all over the body and expel carbon dioxide that has been created throughout the body. That is talking about the normal, healthy lungs, which a smoker definitely lacks.
Physicians warn that smokers have trouble breathing because smoking damages the lungs, causing more frequent and more serious attacks among the asthmatics; while it also causes a lot of coughing with mucus.
“The brown tar that tobacco leaves in the lungs can cause emphysema (lung disease) and lung cancer,” physicians warn.
Smoking and fertility
According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, cigarette smoking is harmful to a woman’s ovaries, and the degree of harm is dependent upon the amount and the period of time a woman smokes.
It says, “Smoking appears to accelerate the loss of eggs and reproductive function and may advance the time of menopause by several years. Components in cigarette smoke have been shown to interfere with the ability of cells in the ovary to make oestrogen and to cause a woman’s eggs to be more prone to genetic abnormalities.”
A Professor of Reproductive Endocrinology, Oladapo Ashiru, adds, “Smoking is strongly associated with an increased risk of spontaneous miscarriage and possibly ectopic pregnancy as well. Pregnant smokers are more likely to have low birth weight babies and premature birth. “The incidence of sudden infant death syndrome also increases in households where someone smokes.”