Smoking is the single worst thing you can do for your health. Fortunately, it’s never too late to reap the benefits of quitting. If you’ve tried to quit before and failed, it’s time to summon your resolve and try again.
Smoking is responsible for one of every five deaths. That includes 29% of all cancer deaths, 87% of all lung cancer deaths, and nearly 20% of all deaths from cardiovascular disease. But long before smoking kills you, it ages you. You can see for yourself that smoking accelerates the drying and wrinkling of the skin. But there are less obvious effects as well. Smokers’ arteries, for example, show serious thickening from the buildup of plaque. In one study, the carotid (major neck) arteries of smokers had thickened as much as those of nonsmokers who were ten years older. Indeed, smoking takes years away from your life. Nearly half of all chronic smokers die an average of 20 to 25 years before their time.
Besides an early death from cancer or heart disease, smoking can cause such lung disorders as emphysema and chronic bronchitis. People who smoke over a pack a day have almost triple the risk of contracting pneumonia than that of nonsmokers. By lowering levels of estrogen in men and women, smoking speeds bone loss. If a woman smokes a pack of cigarettes every day, she’ll enter menopause with 5 to 10% less bone mass than a nonsmoker. In men, smoking can also affect sexual performance. It’s scientifically proven that smoking can clog penile blood vessels in the same way that it clogs cardiac vessels, leading to impotence.
The good news is that no matter what your age or how long you’ve smoked, you’ll live longer if you quit today. The Coronary Artery Surgery Study examined nearly 2000 long-term smokers over age 54. Those who quit had substantially lower death rates six years later than those who didn’t. Even the oldest ex-smokers had a higher survival rate.
Not only will you live longer if you quit, you’ll feel better, breathe easier, and find that you have more energy. You’ll have fewer respiratory infections, headaches, and stomachaches. What’s more, you’ll save money. Your clothes and breath won’t reek any longer. And your habit won’t aggravate — or threaten the health of — the people who live and work with you.