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Smoking Damages Your Lungs
- Smoking causes damage the lungs.
- Diseases associated with smoking are cancer, asthma and COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease.)
By now, even heavy smokers know that their addiction to cigarettes is causing serious damage to their lungs. While we’ve heard the claim thousands of times, most of us don’t really understand specifically how smoking leads to damage in parts of the lungs. Below is an overview of the many ways in which smoking damages your lungs and leads to other health problems.
Types of Damage
Most of us know that cigarettes are full of additives but learning that they contain as many as 4,000 different chemicals can be shocking. According to a PBS special for kids, cigarettes can contain cyanide, formaldehyde, ammonia, lead, and all types of other nasty ingredients that should never be in our bodies. Their presence is the number one reason why smoking damages your lungs.
Take tar, for example. Tar is added to cigarettes so they will have a better flavor. However, tar is sticky and once inhaled through the cigarette it sticks to the insides of our lungs. Carbon monoxide is also present in the smoke produced by burning cigarettes. When carbon monoxide is in our bodies, it enters our bloodstream and prevents red blood cells from carrying oxygen to the parts of our bodies that need it. As a result, we sometimes do not get sufficient oxygen supplies leading to health problems.
One of the most serious affects of these chemicals is they paralyze the cilia, which are the hairs lining the upper airways. Normally, the cilia and mucus work together to prevent infections from reaching your respiratory system. The mucus captures the bacteria, viruses, or other foreign invaders while the movement of the cilia pushes them away from the lungs. Smoking prevents the cilia from doing their job so much of that bad stuff ends up right in your lungs. This is the main reason why smokers are more likely to have respiratory infections.
Additionally smoking can damage the alveoli (air sacs in the lungs) and can cause the narrowing of air passageways. Both make breathing more difficult for smokers.
Diseases Associated with Smoking
Because of the ways smoking damages your lungs, as a smoker you would be at great risk of developing certain types of diseases: COPD, cancer, and asthma. COPD stands for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease and occurs when smoking (as well as other factors in smaller numbers of people) makes breathing more difficult. As the disease worsens, you may find yourself being short of breath after doing very little or nothing at all. COPD is a leading cause of death among smokers and can begin interfering with your quality of life at a younger age.
Since 1995, scientists have known without a doubt that smoking causes lung cancer. First, they identified an important gene known as p53 which played a protective role in the health of the cells. Second, they discovered that the carcinogens in the cigarette damaged the p53, leading to future mutations, and eventually the excessive cell growth that is the hallmark of all types of cancer.
Asthma is also connected to smoking but in a different way. While asthma is not caused by smoking, it can be triggered by the inhalation of secondhand or even firsthand smoke because the chemicals irritate the lungs leading to the narrowing of air passages and difficulty breathing.
The information supplied in this article is not to be considered as medical advice and is for educational purposes only.
|Drinking and Smoking16 Jan 2009