Thursday, November 10, 2011

Impact of Cigarette Smoking on Women

Despite known risks of cigarette smoking more than 23 percent of women still smoke, increasing their risk of cervical cancer, heart disease, respiratory problems and more. Smoking is a known killer, but hundreds of thousands of women will die each year from lighting up.

Most women who smoke are between the ages of 25 and 44. Teenage women also make up a significant percentage of smokers in the United States. Second hand smoke is just as damaging, resulting in more than 40,000 deaths every year.

Smoking cessation prevents much of the damage associated with cigarette smoking including heart disease and cancer. There are many benefits of quitting smoking, which we will describe below.

Smoking Cessation Benefits

Women who quit smoking will realize immediate health benefits. Women who quit smoking before they reach the age of 50 reduce their risk of dying of smoking by as much as one-half. Smoking cessation also reduces the risk of heart disease in people exposed to second hand smoke.

The most common side effects of smoking cigarettes

Pulmonary and Respiratory Disorders: Smoking increases your risk of developing a condition called chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The lung damage that occurs from pulmonary disease is not often reversible. However, if you do quit smoking your lung function will not decline further, and you may notice an improvement in coughing and breathing.

Cardiovascular disease:  Cigarette smoking is a leading cause of cardiovascular disease in the United States. Women who smoke more than double their risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Immediately stopping smoking can result in instant improvement in your cardiovascular function and a reduced risk of heat disease. After smoking cessation has continued for at least a year, your risk of developing cardiovascular disease drops by 50 percent. Your risk continues to decline the more years you remain smoke free. Some studies suggest the heart attack risk for smoker's drops to that of nonsmokers after two years of cessation.

Cancer:  Cigarette smoking contributes to developing several different kinds of cancer, including cervical cancer, lung cancer, cancer of the esophagus, mouth, bladder and pancreas. Smoking cessation can improve your survival rate and reduce your risk of developing severe cancers resulting from smoking.

Osteoporosis:  Smoking contributes to bone loss, thus increases a woman's risk for developing osteoporosis. 10 years after smoking cessation a woman's excess risk for osteoporosis declines significantly.

Breast Cancer:  Women who smoke are more at risk for breast cancer. In fact, the risk of developing fatal forms of breast cancer is 75 percent higher for women who smoke than those that do not. The number of cigarettes a woman smokes per day can affect their breast cancer survival rate.

Vulvar Cancer: Women who smoke are also 48 percent more likely to develop a rare form of vulvar cancer.

Smoking may also contribute to many other diseases and problems. It is especially dangerous to pregnant women. Babies exposed to smoking mothers are often born with birth defects and low birth weights. Mothers who smoke are also more at risk for miscarriage, premature rupture of the membranes and placenta previa. Babies born to mothers that smoke often experience withdrawal symptoms during the first week of life. Over time smoking also contribute to skin wrinkling and may even reduce your sexual ability. Quitting smoking improves all of these conditions immediately.

Women and Smoking

Women are more at risk for certain problems related to smoking than men are. Women who use oral contraceptives or other hormonal forms of birth control are especially at risk for developing serious side effects. Women using hormones who smoke increase their risk of developing life threatening blood clots and strokes. This is even more the case for women over the age of 35 who smoke and use birth control pills.

High blood pressure may also result in women who smoke and use oral contraceptives.

Women who smoke typically have reduced fertility. Studies suggest that women who smoke are 3.4 times more likely to experience problems conceiving than those who do not. This may be because of a decreased ovulatory response. In some women the egg had trouble implanting when the mother smokes.

Smoking also affects your partner! Did you know that men are 50 percent more likely to experience problems with impotence when they smoke? How is that for bad news?

Menopause and Menstruation

Smoking also affects women's normal cyclical changes, including those that occur during menopause and menstruation. Women who start smoking during their teen years are more at risk for developing early menopause than women who do not smoke. Smokers may also experience more menstrual problems including abnormal bleeding or amenorrhea than women who don't smoke. This may be because smoking often lowers levels of estrogens in the body.

Smoking Cessation

There is no doubt about it, smoking is positively horrible for you. The good news is there are many methods you can adopt to help you quit smoking. Unfortunately, smoking cessation is difficult. Smoking is an addiction. Nicotine is terribly addictive and causes many people to fail when they try quitting.

You are more likely to succeed however if you know the risks and prepare for them.

When you quit smoking you will have withdrawal symptoms. These are often unpleasant, and may include cigarette cravings, insomnia, fatigue, irritability, anxiety, restlessness and even depression. These withdrawal symptoms are usually hardest to deal with and most intense during the first 3 days after smoking cessation. Fortunately the cravings DO go away if you remain smoke free.

Many patients experience some mild depression, but usually this is not severe enough to warrant any treatment. If you are having difficulty with depression however, your health care provider may recommend treatment for you.

Smoking Cessation and Weight Gain

Perhaps the biggest fear women have about smoking cessation is the associated weight gain. The reason people gain weight when they quit smoking is simply because they eat more. Many women gain between 2 and 5 pounds when they first quit. Over time this may increase to 10 pounds.

However, weight gain and smoking cessation are NOT unavoidable. If you adopt an exercise program and eat healthily you are not likely to gain much weight. And more importantly, the benefits of quitting smoking outweigh any small weight gain by ten times.

If you do gain a couple of pounds, regular exercise two to three times a week should not only help you shed the pounds, but will also help you feel better and help reduce your cravings.

Smoking Cessation Remedies

Quitting smoking cold turkey can be extraordinarily difficult. Fortunately you don't have to. There are many smoking cessation aides available that can improve the chances you will quit smoking successfully. These include over-the-counter cures such as Nicorette gum and patches. You can also use a patch called Nicoderm C Q. Ask your doctor which method may be best for you.

The patch often helps reduce the physical withdrawal symptoms and cravings associated with smoking cessation. It is critical however you not smoke while using these methods, as you may potentially overdose on nicotine.

When you do decide to quit, let your friends, family members and other loved ones know you made the decision to improve your health. They can lend you much needed support in the days and weeks to come. Here are some other tips for improving your smoking cessation strategy:
  • Avoid common triggers. Some people for example are more likely to smoke when they drink.
  • Avoid social situations where other people are smoking for a short time.
  • Chew gum or find other substitutes to keep you from smoking when you have the urge.
  • Use a nicotine withdrawal aid.
  • Avoid smoking out of habit, such as when you get in your car or after sex. Try exercising instead.

Lastly, one of the best things you can do for you to increase the odds you can successfully stop smoking is join a support group. Like any addiction, nicotine addiction is difficult to overcome. There are many online forums that support individuals trying to quit smoking. You should also adopt a regular exercise regimen to help keep you distracted and help improve your overall health and well-being. Your body will thank you for years to come when you make the healthy decision to stop smoking. Best of luck!

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