Smoking tobacco doesn’t just increase your risk of lung cancer. It also affects your heart and blood, putting you in danger of developing heart disease and high blood pressure. Here’s exactly what goes on inside your body when you inhale cigarette smoke.
Nicotine speeds up your heart rate
Cigarettes contain a chemical called nicotine, which is not only extremely addictive, but also harmful to your heart. It activates your nervous system’s fight-or-flight response, which speeds up your heart rate. Over time, this can lead to high blood pressure and other heart problems.
There’s also some bad news for e-cigarette enthusiasts. The vapor you inhale still contains nicotine even without tobacco, so you’re still susceptible to this unfortunate side effect.
Tar coats the insides of your lungs
The smoke produced when you burn a cigarette leaves behind a sticky substance called tar. When you inhale smoke from a cigarette, you’re also introducing this substance into your airways.
Tar causes many of the health problems associated with cigarette smoking. It’s especially harmful to your lungs. The substance can stick to your lungs, damage lung tissue, and cause problems ranging from lung cancer to emphysema to pulmonary hypertension.
It also encourages cancer cell growth
Smoking also weakens your immune system, which affects your body’s ability to fight off the growth of cancer cells.
Lung cancer isn’t the only type of smoking-related cancer you can get, either. Smoking can lead to cancer cell growth anywhere throughout your body, including your colon, kidneys, stomach, pancreas, and even your blood.
Carbon monoxide deprives your body of oxygen
Smoking doesn’t only put you at risk for inhaling carcinogenic chemicals. Heavy smokers can actually give themselves carbon monoxide poisoning as well — the kind you might get from car exhaust or a gas leak in your house.
Carbon monoxide attaches itself to red blood cells and inhibits their ability to carry full doses of oxygen throughout your body. This can result in shortness of breath and extreme tiredness.
A chemical called BaP damages your cell DNA
There are a number of reasons why cancer develops in various parts of the body. Exposure to harmful chemicals hits smokers at the genetic level — and it’s completely preventable (by not smoking).
Cigarette smoke damages your cells all the way down to their DNA. A carcinogenic chemical called BaP is produced as a result of burning plant compounds — like tobacco plants. Inhaling that chemical, scientists warn, is extremely toxic.
Smoke damages the walls of your arteries
Your arteries are responsible for transporting blood from your heart to other parts of your body. Long-term smoking increases your risk of peripheral artery disease, a condition that affects the “piping” connected to your heart.
Plaque buildup in your arteries happens for a number of reasons. Smoking, along with other factors like obesity and high blood pressure, significantly increase your heart disease risk.
It also puts you at risk for blood clots
Cigarette smoke and your blood do not mix well. Smoking makes your blood sticky, increasing the likelihood you’ll experience excessive blood clotting, which is extremely dangerous and potentially fatal.
These clots can dislodge and travel to other parts of your body, damaging your organs or even putting you at risk of death. Blood clots can also cause fatal heart attacks and strokes if they block essential blood flow to your heart or brain.
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