How can smoking cigarettes affect a woman's health?

Deborah L. Neiman, MD
Internal Medicine
There is absolutely no positive benefit your general health for women as well as men or teenagers or anyone for that matter. In fact, cigarette smoking is one of the most hazardous habits for your health. The ingredients in the smoke, all toxins to the human lungs, lead to many disastrous health consequences. At the early stages of smoking, the toxins in the smoke harm the defense system in the entire breathing system -- the mouth, throat and lungs and makes a person more susceptible to infections. Also, the infections that smokers get are often more difficult to get rid of and more resistant to typical antibiotics. After a period of time, the smoking habit begins to cause more permanent damage to the breathing system causing irreversible damage to the lungs and the airways leading down to the lungs. This damage leads to stiffened lungs and breathing system -- a system that should be elastic -- like a sponge -- able to bounce back from damage. However, smokers develop a stiffened lung and breathing system that begins to build up toxins on its lining and does not heal itself well and respond to injuries as well as it should.

Besides the lungs and the entire system of breathing, smoking also causes damage to the heart and the blood vessels. Over time, the smoking leads to an increase in buildup in the arteries of plaque and other inflammatory products. This makes the arteries stiffer over time and more likely to form life threatening blockages. 

Smoking continues to harm other organs in the body and in combination with other unhealthy habits, particularly alcohol overuse, can increase a person's risk for bladder, stomach, pancreatic and breast cancer.

The bottom line is that smoking is the one worst habit that an individual can adopt -- it is extremely harmful to the body and also, is very difficult to stop once you have start. The best advice I can give -- don't even try -- it is one toxic waste that you can easily avoid in life!
Joanne M. Foody, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Smoking is one of the biggest risk factors for a heart attack for both men and women. It also puts you at risk for lung cancer, increases your chance of a stroke, and leads to coughing and shortness of breath. Smoking can have additional negative effects on women who use oral contraceptives, giving them a higher risk of heart disease and strokes.

The more cigarettes you smoke, the higher your risk of a heart attack. When you smoke:
  • your heart beats faster.
  • your blood pressure rises.
  • your blood flow is reduced.
  • more carbon monoxide is carried in your blood.
  • your vital organs and tissues receive less oxygen.
Smoking can also aggravate other heart disease risk factors by:
  • raising your blood pressure
  • reducing your HDL (good) cholesterol
  • lessening your ability to exercise
  • increasing blood clotting
The good news is that it’s never too late to quit. If you stop smoking, you’ll improve your health and reduce your long-term risks -- and you’ll see immediate benefits, some within just a few hours! And the benefits don’t stop there. Within several years your stroke and heart disease risk can equal that of a non-smoker’s and your risk of cancer will be dramatically reduced as well.
Woman Smoking
It's no secret that smoking wreaks havoc on your body. By inhaling cigarette smoke regularly, you're putting yourself at risk for heart disease, cancer, autoimmune diseases, osteoporosis, poor circulation, failing vision and fertility issues. If you smoke while pregnant, you're also putting your unborn fetus at risk for a multitude of complications, such as cleft palate, sudden infant death syndrome, low birth weight and many other problems.

Smoking can also affect the way you look. Cigarette smoke deprives your skin of oxygen and nutrients, which can leave you with pale or uneven skin tone. The chemicals in smoke break down collagen and elastin, making your skin more likely to sag and wrinkle. Age spots, fine lines, yellow teeth and gums, stained fingers and hair loss are also common in frequent smokers. Finally, the smell of smoke permeates your skin and clothes, sticking with you even when you don't have a cigarette in hand.

With multiple forms of support and plenty of resources to help you quit smoking, there's really no reason for you to continue doing it, especially when you know how much it's affecting your body. If you need help quitting or have questions, talk to your healthcare provider.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.