Do you smoke?: You should read this text before your next cigarette!

The number of smokers in Germany is increasing again. Knowledge of the harmful effects of cigarettes has never been greater. So before you light another cigarette, read here what happens in the body and how you can at least reduce the risk of disease.

Together with many partners from the health system, the federal government commissioner for addiction and drugs, Burkhard Blienert, is calling for people to stop smoking. At the start of the campaign week from 11 to 16 November, a drug addiction officer visited the campaign stand in Hamburg.

Current numbers show how important this educational work is. While the number of smokers in Germany has been declining in recent years, especially among younger people, the trend has reversed again since the beginning of 2021. According to the so-called DEBRA study, which asks a representative question about the smoking behavior of Germans, 36 percent of the population over the age of 14 currently smokes in Germany. Above all, the group over 25 consumes more nicotine than in previous years. The study does not provide any information on the reasons; Experts assume a strong influence of the years of the pandemic. However, it is clear that smoking is bad for your health. FOCUS online explains exactly how and how you can at least reduce the damage.

Higher risk of disease

Most people today are aware that smoking increases the risk of cancer. But the risk of other diseases also increases if you smoke regularly: Cigarettes are among the most important Risk factors for cardiovascular diseases.

For example, smokers double the risk of stroke. The dangerous one cardiovascular disease get them even up to four times higher compared to a non-smoker. The term cardiovascular disease is used by doctors to summarize various diseases such as High blood pressure, heart attack, cardiac arrhythmia or one heart failure.

All of them are particularly dangerous to smokers. The reason is usually arteriosclerosiscolloquially also called vascular calcification.

Arteries in the body gradually harden and thicken. Blood can then flow harder, blood clots can form and clog the vessels. Arteriosclerosis is also responsible for the mentioned perive AVK; i.e. arterial occlusive disease of the extremities. It mainly affects the legs, but also the arms and hands. The clinical picture is better known under the term claudication – with pain and cramps in the legs when walking, a smoker’s leg with non-healing ulcers and open spots.

These are the reasons for the negative consequences of smoking

All these negative effects of smoking are due to the toxins that are created when the tobacco is burned. Experts know up to 700 different substances, some of which are proven to be carcinogenic or at least suspected of greatly increasing the risk. They probably include

  • Tar substances
  • Chrome
  • Benzene
  • carbon monoxide or
  • Large amounts of formaldehyde.

On the other hand, the nicotine it also contains is less problematic than its reputation. Although it is the substance that causes addiction, it is not the one that primarily causes the disease.

This is what happens to your body when you smoke

Arteriosclerosis is probably not a problem for any of us as we age. However, in smokers, the process of forming vascular deposits begins much earlier and progresses much faster than in non-smokers.

The association between smoking and progressive vascular disease is strong. Because when burning tobacco in a cigarette, many harmful substances are produced due to the high heat of several hundred degrees. This has fatal consequences for the organism:

  • Substances change, among other things, the inner wall of blood vessels, the endothelium.
  • This allows harmful LDL cholesterol to accumulate particularly well.
  • In addition, there are remodeling processes in the vascular wall and inflammation.
  • As a result, blood vessels narrow and their elasticity gradually decreases. Carbon monoxide occupies the red blood cells, which can therefore absorb less oxygen.
  • This leads to a lack of oxygen throughout the body.
  • Smoking also increases the clotting factor of the blood, making the blood more viscous. This increases the risk of vascular occlusion and clotting – and with it the risk of embolism, thrombosis, heart attack or stroke.

Cigarettes also damage other parts of the body. For example, smokers have a 15 times higher risk of periodontal disease than non-smokers because the toxins in smoke destroy healthy oral flora and promote inflammation.

Replacement products cause less damage than lighter cigarettes

Some experts therefore advise smokers who are absolutely unable to quit to at least switch to replacement products such as e-cigarettes, vaporizers or heaters such as those from Iqos. They are also not healthy, but they are at least less harmful than the classic burning option. “Quitting smoking completely remains the best option,” classifies doctor Martin Storck.

“However, current studies show positive effects of completely switching from cigarettes to e-cigarettes, for example on clinical symptoms of lung disease or on vascular endothelial function.”

Of course, large long-term studies on the frequency of tumors or heart attacks are not yet available. But switching is clearly a better decision than continuing to smoke as before, says Storck, director of the Department of Vascular and Thoracic Surgery at the Karlsruhe City Clinic and professor at the University of Freiburg.

The vascular specialist finds it problematic that many people do not know this. “Too few smokers in Germany are aware of the significantly lower harm potential of e-cigarettes, tobacco heaters or nicotine pouches compared to combustible cigarettes. Only those who have dealt with the matter understand these differences in harm potential.”

This will improve immediately when you stop smoking

Positive health changes in the body are manifested very quickly after quitting smoking: regeneration of the organism begins immediately after the last puff of a cigarette – by the way, there are no differences between the sexes. Women and men recover equally quickly and well.

On the other hand, the age for quitting smoking plays a central role: Anyone who manages to stop smoking before the age of 45 can eliminate 90 percent of the resulting risk of cardiovascular problems. This was discovered by Australian scientists in a study.

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