The Effects of Smoking & Alcohol on the Body

Smoking and drinking are two lifestyle habits that get a lot of negative criticism in the health industry, and for good reason. They both cause multiple complications with the body that can range from mild to life-threatening. The only exception is moderate consumption of alcohol. One to two alcoholic beverages a day can actually be beneficial. Knowing the facts about the effects of smoking and drinking on the body can help you find the motivation to quit.

Emphysema

The lungs are pliable organs that need to be elastic and flexible to breathe properly. Smoking causes the lungs to become damaged and it compromises their elasticity. This in turn leads to a condition called emphysema where breathing becomes labored, even with minimal exertion. Smoking is responsible for 80 to 90 percent of all cases of emphysema, according to PDRHealth.

Lung Cancer

In 2010, the United States alone saw 222,520 new cases of lung cancer and 157,300 deaths, according to the National Cancer Institute. Smoking is one of the leading risk factors for this disease. This includes firsthand smoking and secondhand smoking. Secondhand smoke is the smoke you breathe in from other people. This can still linger in a room even hours after a smoker has left.

Erectile Dysfunction

To achieve an erection, males must have a steady flow of blood going to the penis. If this blood flow is compromised, erectile dysfunction can occur. MayoClinic.com sites both excessive tobacco use and heavy drinking as risk factors for erectile dysfunction.

Wrinkles

The skin is composed of elastin and collagen fibers. The nicotine and other harmful chemicals in cigarettes damage collagen and elastin, which in turn leads to premature wrinkling. This can take place anywhere on the body, including the face and arms.

High Blood Pressure

When you drink excessively and smoke, you increase your chances of getting high blood pressure. This is defined as a reading of 140/90 mmHg or above. If left untreated, high blood pressure can cause congestive heart failure, heart attack, stroke, kidney damage and vision loss, notes the American Heart Association.

High Cholesterol

Cholesterol is produced naturally in the liver and it is used by the body for hormone and cell production. When levels become elevated, plaque can form on the walls of the arteries and obstruct the flow of blood to the heart. Smoking promotes this process by damaging the blood vessel walls. In addition, smoking lowers the levels of "good" cholesterol, HDL, that you want high.

Cirrhosis of the Liver

The liver is a major organ in the body that produces bile which breaks down fat; the liver also helps purify the blood. Heavy drinking over the course of time can cause liver damage. In the worst of cases, a condition known as cirrhosis can take place. Cirrhosis is a condition in which the liver slowly deteriorates and malfunctions due to chronic injury.

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