glenn ellis

Glenn Ellis

*A major pharmacy chain has said it will stop selling tobacco products at its 7,600 locations across the United States, a move that public-health advocates hope will become a watershed and pressure other large drug store franchises to follow suit.

One way we will see this become a national trend is if more of us realize WHY this is in the public interest.

In this spirit I’d like to share, again, some informative information on the health effects of smoking.

You know smoking causes lung cancer, emphysema, and heart disease, but you’re still lighting up. To help you get on the wagon this New Year, I’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 10 compelling — and often surprising — reasons to stick to your resolution in 2010.

  • Alzheimer’s Disease: Smoking 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.

Smoking likely puts into effect a vicious cycle of artery damage, clotting and increased risk of stroke, causing mental decline.

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 (SLE)– 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.

  • Colic: Smoking Makes Babies Irritable, Too

Exposure to tobacco smoke may increase babies’ risk of colic, according to a review of more than 30 studies on the topic.

Colic often starts a few weeks after birth, peaking at about 5 to 8 weeks of age. It usually goes away by 4 months of age. Babies’ symptoms include irritability, inconsolable crying, red face, clenched fists, drawn-up legs, and screaming.

Tobacco smoke appears to raise levels of a gut hormone called motilin in the blood and intestines. Motilin increases the contractions of the stomach and intestines, increasing the movement of food through the gut.

  • An Increased Risk of Impotence

Men 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.

Overall, 15% of past and present smokers had experienced erectile dysfunction, more commonly known as impotence.

  • 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.

More than a quarter of all cases of age-related macular degeneration with blindness or visual impairment are attributable to current or past exposure to smoking.

But other studies show that former smokers have an only slightly increased risk of age-related macular degeneration, compared with never smokers, he writes.

  • 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.

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.

Smokers with double SE genes were almost 16 times more likely to have rheumatoid arthritis, while smokers without SE genes were only 2.4 times more likely to be affected.

  • 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..

Even nonsmokers were more likely to snore if they were exposed to secondhand smoke in their homes. Almost 20% of these nonsmokers snored, compared with nearly 13% who had never been exposed to secondhand smoke at home.

  • 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.

Roughly one in five people suffer from heartburn or acid reflux, known medically as gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD.

  • Breast Cancer: Active Smoking Plays Bigger Role Than 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.

Those at greatest risk: Women who started smoking before age 20, who began smoking at least five years before their first full-term pregnancy, and who had smoked for longer periods of time or smoked 20 or more cigarettes per day.

If those top 10 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.

If you’re finally convinced you should quit, you can start right now!

Remember, I’m not a doctor. I just sound like one.

Take good care of yourself and live the best life possible!

The information included in this column is for educational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. The reader should always consult his or her healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation or if they have any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment plan.

Glenn Ellis, is a Health Advocacy Communications Specialist. He is the author of Which Doctor?, and Information is the Best Medicine. A health columnist and radio commentator who lectures, nationally and internationally on health related topics, Ellis is an active media contributor on Health Equity and Medical Ethics.

Listen to Glenn, Saturdays at 9am (EST) on 900amwurd.com

For more good health information, visit: www.glennellis.com