Many smokers believe that if they exercise, eat well, and make other good lifestyle decisions that they’re able to counteract the side effects of smoking. But the fact remains that exercise and a healthy diet can’t reverse the damaging effects of cigarettes and the thousands of harmful chemicals found inside of them.
Here’s why you can’t get healthy while still smoking, and what you can do to improve your overall well-being.
How Smoking Affects the Body
Smoking impacts almost every organ and system within the body. When cigarette smoke is inhaled, dozens of chemicals travel to the lungs. These chemicals coat the lungs and negatively impact cilia, which work to prevent respiratory infection.
Over time, these chemicals damage the lungs, which increase the risk of chronic bronchitis, emphysema, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and even lung cancer. These chemicals also contribute to the infamous smoker’s cough and shortness of breath.
Smoking also has a notable impact on the cardiovascular system. Nicotine causes blood vessels to narrow, which restricts blood flow throughout the body. Continued narrowing of these blood vessels increases the risk of blood clots and high blood pressure, which increases the risk of stroke.
Aside from the lungs and heart, smoking also negatively impacts:
- Reproductive system
- Digestive system
- Immune system
- Bone health
While many of the side effects of smoking can be reversed by quitting, some are life-long and can have lasting impacts on quality of life and overall health.
The Healthy Smoker Myth
One of the biggest myths about smoking is that it’s possible to offset the negative effects of the habit, but studies have found just the opposite. While physical activity and a healthy diet will improve your health, these two things can’t undo the damage that smoking causes throughout the body.
Even if you’re someone who goes to the gym each day and eats a healthy diet, smoking still puts you at a high risk of all sorts of chronic diseases, including lung disease, heart disease, and cancer. Tobacco use accounts for about a third of all cancers, and it has been linked to around 90% of all lung cancer cases.
When someone inhales cigarette smoke, dozens of harmful toxins are introduced into the body. Neither exercise or a healthy diet will remove the harmful effects of those toxins. Once they enter the body, they are there to stay.
The bottom line is that smoking counteracts all of the healthy choices that you make, not vice versa.
But what about smokers who don’t experience some of the common side effects of smoking, such as shortness of breath, weakened immune system, or a persistent cough? All smokers, even those who haven’t experienced the negative symptoms, are still at an increased risk for serious health complications and diseases.
Quitting Smoking is the Best Option
The best way to improve your short and long-term health is to kick bad habits to the curb. Smoking is one of the unhealthiest habits and has been linked to early death in people of all ages.
For those who want to quit smoking, doing so can feel like an uphill battle. A study found that smokers make an average of 30 attempts before they’re able to successfully quit smoking.
This is because smokers are addicted to nicotine. When someone tries to quit smoking cold turkey, they completely derive the brain and body of the chemical. This causes cravings and severe withdrawal symptoms, which often causes that person to resort back to smoking.
The key to successfully quitting smoking is having a well thought out smoking cessation plan. This means setting a quit date and identifying what triggers you to want to pick up a cigarette. For example, some people smoke in social settings while others smoke when they’re stressed or anxious.
It’s also important to choose a smoking aid or alternative product that will help you to minimize nicotine withdrawal symptoms. There are various smoking alternatives to choose from, including e-cigarettes, nicotine patches, and tobacco-free dip from Black Buffalo.
In your quest to quit smoking, it’s also helpful to let others know of your decision to quit smoking. Letting friends and family members know will help to minimize triggers. It will also minimize people asking if you need a cigarette or encouraging you to smoke in social settings.
It’s great to follow healthy lifestyle habits, but if you’re a smoker, cigarettes will continue to be a thorn in your side. Even if you’re only a light smoker, the fact remains that cigarettes introduce 7,000 harmful toxins into the body.
If you want to be as healthy as possible, the best option is to quit smoking. By doing so, your body will begin to heal and repair itself, and you’ll feel as if a huge weight has been lifted off of your shoulders.