If you smoke, you are more likely to have a stroke than someone who doesn't smoke.
In fact, smoking increases your risk of having a stroke by at least 50%, which can cause brain damage and death. And, by smoking, you double your risk of dying from a stroke.
One way that smoking can increase your risk of a stroke is by increasing your chances of developing a brain aneurysm. This is a bulge in a blood vessel caused by a weakness in the blood vessel wall. This can rupture or burst which will lead to an extremely serious condition known as a subarachnoid haemorrhage, which is a type of stroke, and can cause extensive brain damage and death.
The good news is that within two years of stopping smoking, your risk of stroke is reduced to half that of a smoker and within five years it will be the same as a non-smoker.
Your lungs can be very badly affected by smoking. Coughs, colds, wheezing and asthma are just the start. Smoking can cause fatal diseases such as pneumonia, emphysema and lung cancer. Smoking causes 84% of deaths from lung cancer and 83% of deaths from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
COPD, a progressive and debilitating disease, is the name for a collection of lung diseases including chronic bronchitis and emphysema. People with COPD have difficulties breathing, primarily due to the narrowing of their airways and destruction of lung tissue. Typical symptoms of COPD include: increasing breathlessness when active, a persistent cough with phlegm and frequent chest infections.
Whilst the early signs of COPD can often be dismissed as a ‘smoker’s cough’, if people continue smoking and the condition worsens, it can greatly impact on their quality of life. You can slow down the progression of the disease and stopping smoking is the most effective way to do this.
Mouth and throat
Smoking causes unattractive problems such as bad breath and stained teeth, and can also cause gum disease and damage your sense of taste.
The most serious damage smoking causes in your mouth and throat is an increased risk of cancer in your lips, tongue, throat, voice box and gullet (oesophagus). More than 93% of oropharyngeal cancers (cancer in part of the throat) are caused by smoking.
The good news is that when you stop using tobacco, even after many years of use, you can greatly reduce your risk of developing head and neck cancer. Once you've been smokefree for 20 years, your risk of head and neck cancer is reduced to that of a non-smoker.
Reproduction and fertility
Smoking can cause male impotence, as it damages the blood vessels that supply blood to the penis. It can also damage sperm, reduce sperm count and cause testicular cancer. Up to 120,000 men from the UK in their 20s and 30s are impotent as a direct result of smoking, and men who smoke have a lower sperm count than those who are non-smokers.
For women, smoking can reduce fertility. One study found that smokers were over three times more likely than non-smokers to have taken more than one year to conceive. The study estimated that the fertility of smoking women was 72% that of non-smokers.
Smoking also increases your risk of cervical cancer. People who smoke are less able to get rid of the HPV infection from the body, which can develop into cancer.
Smoking while you are pregnant can lead to miscarriage, premature birth, stillbirth and illness, and it increases the risk of cot death by at least 25%.
If you are pregnant, you can find lots more information on the specialist free support available from the NHS to help you stop smoking here.
The good news is that once you stop smoking, your health improves and your body will begin to recover.