8 Health Conditions Made Worse by Smoking

  • Quit smoking
    Understand the Combined Effects
    Doctors advise everyone to quit smoking. For those who already have health problems, avoiding tobacco becomes even more crucial. In most cases, quitting smoking won’t cure your disease, but it can immediately improve your health. It’s especially important to kick the habit for these eight health situations.

  • Happy women holding "Survivors" sign at breast cancer awareness race
    1. Cancer
    About 1 in 10 cancer survivors continue to smoke in the decade after their diagnosis, according to a recent American Cancer Society study. For people who currently have cancer, smoking can decrease the safety and effectiveness of treatment. If you find out you have cancer, put down your cigarette for good. Doing so means it’s more likely you will beat the cancer, the cancer won’t come back, and you will live longer.

  • Model of Human Brain
    2. Stroke
    Strokes most often occur when a clot blocks blood flow to the brain. Smoking doubles your risk of having another stroke in the months and years afterward. All too often, these recurrent strokes have more debilitating effects and are more life threatening than the original one. Parts of your brain injured by your first stroke may be weaker the second time.

  • Man measuring blood pressure at home
    3. High Blood Pressure
    High blood pressure is often called a silent killer because it doesn’t cause symptoms.  You may not notice, but your blood pressure increases temporarily after every cigarette. As a result, smoking increases your risk of having a stroke. High blood pressure also increases your risk of stroke. The combined effect of smoking with high blood pressure makes a stroke even more likely, some research shows.

  • Medical exam
    4. Heart Disease
    Smoking reduces your HDL (“good”) cholesterol, leaving LDL (“bad”) cholesterol blocking your arteries. Smoking also thickens your blood and decreases blood oxygen levels. All these factors add up to trouble when it comes to your cardiovascular health. When you have heart disease and you smoke, you’re upping your odds of dying from a heart problem. If you’ve had a heart attack, quitting smoking means you’re less likely to have another one.

  • Child With Allergy Visit Doctor
    5. Asthma
    Tobacco’s toxins irritate even the healthiest airways. But if you already have asthma, smoking makes your condition harder to control. You’ll cough more, wheeze harder, and feel more tightness in your chest. You’ll likely have more frequent and severe asthma attacks, develop bronchitis and pneumonia, and experience less relief from your medications. And if your child has asthma, your smoking can increase his or her risk of hospital visits.

  • Mature man treating asthma with inhaler
    6. COPD
    As many as half of all smokers develop COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), some research shows. A whopping 80% of COPD deaths can be attributed to smoking according to the American Lung Association. But if you have a hard time quitting smoking even after receiving a COPD diagnosis, you’re not alone. As difficult as it is to stop smoking, consider the major benefit of committing to quit. It’s a proven method to stop your COPD from getting worse.

  • Cropped image of Caucasian woman rubbing painful feet sitting on couch
    7. Peripheral Artery Disease
    People with peripheral artery disease (PAD) suffer from pain, weakness and cramping in their leg muscles due to blocked blood flow. Smoking even 1 or 2 cigarettes per day can interfere with treatments for PAD. And if you smoke and have diabetes in addition to PAD, your odds of tissue death or gangrene rise. When this happens, it often leads to amputation.

  • Pregnant woman showing ultrasound picture
    8. Pregnancy
    Smoking while pregnant doesn’t just put you at risk—it’s highly dangerous for your baby. Moms-to-be who smoke risk having a premature delivery and a low birth weight baby. An abnormally low birth weight means your baby may be very sick with lung problems, stomach problems, and bleeding in the brain. It may also mean more long-term health problems later in life. After the baby is born, secondhand smoke may increase the risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome).

8 Health Conditions Made Worse by Smoking

About The Author

  1. Cancer Survivors and Smoking. National Cancer Institute. http://progressreport.cancer.gov/doc_detail.asp?pid=1&did=2011&chid=101&coid=1038&mid.
  2. Cigarette Smoking and Severe Asthma—A Harmful Mix. American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. http://www.aaaai.org/global/latest-research-summaries/Current-JACI-Research/cigarette-smoking-severe....
  3. COPD Fact Sheet. American Lung Association. http://www.lung.org/lung-disease/copd/resources/facts-figures/COPD-Fact-Sheet.html.
  4. Harms of Smoking and Health Benefits of Quitting. National Cancer Institute. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Tobacco/cessation.
  5. How Cigarettes Damage Your Body. American Heart Association. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/QuitSmoking/QuittingSmoking/How-Cigarettes-Damage-Your-.... Accessed October 20, 2014.
  6. How Does Smoking Affect the Heart and Blood Vessels? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/smo/.
  7. Quitting Smoking. COPD Foundation. http://www.copdfoundation.org/What-is-COPD/Living-with-COPD/Quitting-Smoking.aspx.
  8. Howrylak JA, Spanier AJ, Huang B, Peake RW, Kellogg MD, Sauers H, Kahn RS. Cotinine in children admitted for asthma and readmission. Pediatrics. 2014;133(2):e355-62.
  9. Nordahl H, Osler M, Frederiksen BL, Andersen I, Prescott E, Overvad K, Diderichsen F, Rod NH. Combined effects of socioeconomic position, smoking, and hypertension on risk of ischemic and hemorrhagic stroke. Stroke. 2014;45(9):2582-7.
  10. Smoking and Heart Disease and Stroke. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/campaign/tips/diseases/heart-disease-stroke.html.
  11. Smoking and the Risk of Stroke. Stroke Association. http://www.stroke.org.uk/factsheet/smoking-and-risk-stroke.
  12. Smoking: Do You Really Know the Risks? American Heart Association. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/QuitSmoking/QuittingSmoking/Smoking-Do-you-really-know-....
  13. Smoking Will Make Your Asthma Worse. Oregon Asthma Program. http://public.health.oregon.gov/DiseasesConditions/ChronicDisease/Asthma/resourcebank/Documents/smok.... Accessed October 26, 2014.
  14. STARS—Steps Against Recurrent Stroke. National Stroke Association. http://www.stroke.org/site/PageServer?pagename=STARS.
  15. Tobacco and Blood Pressure. American Heart Association. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HighBloodPressure/PreventionTreatmentofHighBloodPressure/To....
  16. Toll BA, Brandon TH, Gritz ER, Warren GW, Herbst RS; AACR Subcommittee on Tobacco and Cancer. Assessing tobacco use by cancer patients and facilitating cessation: an American Association for Cancer Research policy statement. Clin Cancer Res. 2013;19(8):1941-8.
  17. Westmaas JL, Alcaraz KI, Berg CJ, Stein KD. Prevalence and correlates of smoking and cessation-related behavior among survivors of ten cancers: findings from a nationwide survey nine years after diagnosis. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2014;23(9):1783-92.
  18. What Is COPD? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/copd/.
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Last Review Date: 2018 Nov 29
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