You know smoking causes lung cancer, emphysema, and heart disease, but you're still lighting up. We've compiled a list of little known ways your life can go up in smoke if you don't kick the habit.
From an increased risk of blindness to a faster decline in mental function, here are some compelling -- and surprising -- reasons to stick to your commitment.
Alzheimer's Disease - Speeds up mental decline
In the elderly years, the rate of mental decline is up to five times faster in smokers than in nonsmokers, according to a study of 9,200 men and women over age 65. Participants took standardized tests used to detect mental impairment when they entered the study and again two years later. Higher rates of mental decline were found in men and women -- and in persons with or without a family history of dementia or Alzheimer's disease, the researchers reported in the March issue of the journal Neurology
Smoking likely puts into effect a vicious cycle of artery damage, clotting and increased risk of stroke, causing mental decline, writes researcher A. Ott, MD, a medical microbiologist with Erasmus University Medical Centre in the Netherlands.
The bottom line: The study provides substantial evidence that chronic tobacco use is harmful to the brain and speeds up onset of Alzheimer's disease
Lupus: Smoking Raises Risk of Autoimmune Disease
Smoking cigarettes raises the risk of developing lupus -- but quitting cuts that risk, an analysis of nine studies shows.
Systemic lupus erythematosus -- known as lupus -- is a chronic autoimmune disease that can cause inflammation, pain, and tissue damage throughout the body. Although some people with lupus have mild symptoms, it can become quite severe.
For the analysis, Harvard researchers reviewed studies that examined the relationship between cigarette smoking and lupus. Among current smokers, there was "a small but significant increased risk" for the development of lupus, they report. Former smokers did not have this increased risk, according to the study.
Maternal Smoking Doubles Risk
Smoking increases the risk of sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS, a European analysis shows.
The researchers compared 745 SIDS cases with more than 2,400 live babies for comparison and concluded that just under half of all deaths were attributable to infants sleeping on their stomachs or sides. Roughly 16% of SIDS deaths were linked to bed sharing, but for unknown reasons, bed sharing was particularly risky when the mother smoked. The risk was very small when mothers did not smoke during pregnancy, the researchers say.
Maternal smoking alone was associated with a doubling in SIDS risk. The risk was 17 times greater, however, for babies who bed shared and had mothers who smoked.
An Increased Risk of Impotence
Guys concerned about their performance in the bedroom should stop lighting up, suggests a study that linked smoking to a man's ability to get an erection. The study of nearly 5,000 Chinese men showed that men who smoked more than a pack a day were 60% more likely to suffer erectile dysfunction, compared with men who never smoked cigarettes.
Blindness: Smoking Raises Risk of Age-Related Macular Degeneration
Smokers are four times more likely to become blind because of age-related macular degeneration than those who have never smoked. But quitting can lower that risk, other research shows.
Age-related macular degeneration is a severe and progressive condition that results in loss of central vision. It results in blindness because of the inability to use the part of the retina that allows for 'straight-ahead' activities such as reading, sewing, and even driving a vehicle. While all the risk factors are not fully understood, research has pointed to smoking as one major and modifiable cause.
Rheumatoid Arthritis : Genetically Vulnerable Smokers Increase Their Risk Even More
People whose genes make them more susceptible to developing rheumatoid arthritis are even more likely to get the disease if they smoke, say Swedish researchers.
In fact, certain genetically vulnerable smokers can be nearly 16 times more likely to develop the disease than nonsmokers without the same genetic profile, according to the study in the October issue of the journal Arthritis & Rheumatism.
Swedish researchers asked participants about their smoking habits and screened their blood for a gene-encoding protein sequence called the shared epitope (SE), which is the major genetic risk factor currently linked to rheumatoid arthritis. Compared with people who had never smoked and lacked SE genes, current smokers with SE genes were 7.5 times more likely to have rheumatoid arthritis.
Snoring: Even Living With a Smoker Raises Risk
Smoking - or living with a smoker -- can cause snoring, according to a study of more than 15,000 men and women.
Habitual snoring, defined as loud and disturbing snoring at least three nights per week, affected 24% of smokers, 20% of ex-smokers, and almost 14% of people who had never smoked. The more people smoked, the more frequently they snored, the researchers reported in the October issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.
Acid Reflux: Heavy Smoking Linked to Heartburn
People who smoke for more than 20 years are 70% more likely to have acid reflux disease than nonsmokers, researchers reported in the November issue of the journal Gut.
Breast Cancer : Active Smoking Plays Bigger Role Than Thought
Other research out in 2004 shows that active smoking may play a much larger role in increasing breast cancer risk than previously thought.
The prevalence of breast cancer among current smokers was 30% higher than the women who had never smoked -- regardless of whether the nonsmokers had been exposed to secondhand or passive smoke.
If these reasons weren't enough to motivate you to quit smoking, keep this in mind:
- Smoking is linked to certain colon cancers.
- Smoking may increase the risk of depression in young people,
- Some studies have linked smoking to thyroid disease.
Now that you know this, what do you think about smoking? Do you consider it a healthy habit?