October 11, 2012 9.04 am This story is over 117 months old

Your health: Stop smoking, start living

Smoking sickness: This week’s health column looks at the various diseases and illnesses smoking can lead to — if it doesn’t kill you first.

“Smoking Kills!” We’ve all seen what it says on the cigarette packets. Though maybe we would be more accurate in saying where it doesn’t kill you, it will make you seriously ill.

We all know people that have smoked all their life and not got lung cancer. Many who smoke though die from such things as stroke, heart attack, emphesymia, bronchitis and other chronic lung diseases just to mention a few.

Approximately 100,000 smokers a year die directly from smoking. Smoking also contributes to many more deaths since existing diseases unrelated to smoking are made much worse by smoking. This figure is not counting all the people who suffer for years from smoke related diseases.

According to the Stroke Association, those that smoke 20 cigarettes a day are six times more likely to have a stroke, this risk increases the more a person smokes. This is also true of heart attacks and other cardiovascular diseases.

How is this? Smoking increases bad cholesterol in the bloodstream, which deposits on arteries creating atherosclerotic plaques. It destroys good cholesterol that gets rid of excess bad cholesterol in the bloodstream. These plaques can break off at any time and cause heart attacks, strokes and other cardiovascular events out of the blue no matter what age you are.

These plaques also cause narrowing of the arteries. There is an increased risk of narrowed and blocked heart arteries: 9 out of 10 heart bypass patients smoke.

A person that smokes may find they don’t heal so well, they have cold hands and feet and are more prone to blockages in the extremities, that can lead to gangrene and amputations.

On top of that, smoking makes blood ‘stickier’ which gives it a tendency to clot, another cause of heart attacks and strokes.

Smokers are more likely to develop high blood pressure, because of narrowing of the arteries or from kidney disease caused by smoking. A smoker with high blood pressure is 15 times more likely to have a brain haemorrhage (a kind of stroke) than those that have never smoked or have blood pressure.

These diseases are just the tip of the ice-berg. The single most beneficial thing a person can do to improve their health is to stop smoking. So why should you stop smoking? Because your health will start improving within hours.

It’s not too late to take part in Stoptober. Stoptober is an NHS event hoping to support thousands of people kick the habit with a 28 day challenge.

Lisa Boulton is the Medical Director of Amethyst Health Screening, a local company which carries out health checks and cardiovascular risk assessments for Lincoln residents and local businesses. She contributes on health-related topics for The Lincolnite.