If you’re a smoker, you probably know you should stop. But do you know all the reasons why?

To help you start your New Year right, Lake Regional Health System is providing education to Lake Sun readers on various ways to be healthier in 2018. For more tips, check your mailbox for Lake Regional’s January Thrive magazine.

If you’re a smoker, you probably know you should stop. But do you know all the reasons why?

“Smoking harms the body in some surprising ways,” said Jennifer Newman, R.N., BSN, cPT, director of Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation at Lake Regional. “Most people recognize the danger for lung cancer, but even if a smoker escapes that potential killer, many other problems could await.”

That’s because smoking affects every area of the body.

Airways. Delicate tissues in your lungs become inflamed because of smoking. This can lead to serious disorders, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lung cancer. Smoking also can cause cancer of the throat and mouth.

Heart. Smoking harms the cells lining the blood vessels and heart and can increase the risk of clots that cause heart attacks. Smoking also can contribute to an abdominal aortic aneurysm — the weakening of the major artery near the stomach.

Other blood vessels. Damage to vessel linings can cause them to narrow, restricting blood flow to the kidneys, stomach, arms, legs and feet. This can lead to a range of problems, including pain and gangrene.

Brain. Blood clots that form in damaged arteries can travel to your brain and cause potentially fatal strokes.

Bones and tendons. Smoking increases the risk for osteoporosis — weak bones — and fractures in both men and women. Overuse injuries, such as tendinitis, and traumatic injuries, such as sprains, are also more likely among smokers, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

Immune system. Compared to nonsmokers, smokers have smaller amounts of some types of cells that destroy germs. That leaves you more vulnerable to infections.

In addition, smoking can cause cancer of the pancreas, kidneys, cervix and stomach. It also can cause leukemia, which is cancer of the blood. And smoking increases your risk for eye diseases and dental problems.

Women who smoke tend to have more complications with pregnancy, including premature births, low-birth-weight babies and stillbirths. And their babies are more likely to die of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) than babies whose mothers don’t smoke.

Turn Your Risks Around

There’s another list that’s much more encouraging — the benefits of giving up smoking.

“If you quit smoking — no matter how long you’ve been addicted — you will see health benefits,” Newman said. “Some — like breathing easier and lower blood pressure — show up within hours or a couple of days.”

You also will:

Lower your risk of cancer, heart attack, stroke and lung disease

Have better blood circulation

Improve your sense of taste and smell

Stop smelling like smoke

Set a healthy example for your children and grandchildren

And you’ll save lots of money, too.

We Know It’s Hard. We Can Help.

Maybe you don’t need convinced that quitting is a good idea. Maybe what you really need is some help succeeding.

To empower smokers who want to quit now, Lake Regional Health System will host the American Lung Association’s Freedom From Smoking® program on Saturdays in January and February.

The course will be taught in eight sessions, scheduled 9 to 11 a.m. on Saturdays, Jan. 6 through Feb. 24. The program cost is $25. Registration is required; visit www.lakeregional.com/freedom or call 573-302-2282.