The impact that smoking can have on your health and well being is greater than you might think.
Smoking increases your risk of developing more than 50 serious health conditions. Some you will have heard of like cancer, while others you may not be so familiar with like COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease). Some may be fatal or cause long-term damage to your health, while others seem less serious, like gum disease, until you get them.
Not only does smoking impact on your health, but developing a smoking related condition can also have a harmful effect on your livelihood. Whether it’s being unable to run around with your children, as it’s just too hard to catch your breath to struggling to leave the house following three smoking-related heart attacks.
Everyone who smokes is vulnerable to developing any one of these diseases, but the longer you continue to smoke, the more likely your chances.
Many people who’ve had their lives impacted by smoking related illness are taking positive steps to improve their health by becoming smokefree, and want to help other smokers understand that it’s never too late to make a positive change.
Geoff, 61 from Norwood
In 2012, rock and roller Geoff was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a progressive and irreversible group of lung diseases. Almost 90% of COPD cases are caused by smoking but Geoff didn’t quit when he was first diagnosed. Like many people he was in denial about the impact it could have on his life.
“I dismissed my doctor when they tried to explain the seriousness of COPD and why I should quit smoking. I thought I was invincible and that it wouldn’t change how I lived my life.” – Geoff
COPD causes increasing breathlessness, recurring chest infections, persistent cough and wheezing. There are 4 stages of COPD severity ranging from mild to very severe and at its worst COPD can be life threatening. However the sooner smoking stops and treatment begins the less chance of severe lung damage.
It wasn’t until several years later, when Geoff’s condition progressed to a more serious stage, that he realised he needed to make a change and give up smoking.
“Looking back, I wish I’d quit smoking right there and then.”
Every day it was getting harder and harder to breathe. He had to give up drumming in his beloved band because he couldn’t handle the physical strain. His illness was affecting his family too as he found it increasingly difficult to play with his 4 grandchildren.
8 months ago Geoff quit smoking with the help of Yorkshire Smokefree Sheffield at The Moor market and now his life is back on track. Although his COPD won’t get better, Geoff feels stronger, breathes easier and is back doing the things he loves like touring with his band and fixing up old cars with his grandson.
Gillian, 55 from Gleedless Townend
Super fit, sports mad Gill never thought she’d be stuck down by illness. She was involved in car accident at age 16, but it wasn’t until almost 40 many years later during surgery for whiplash that her life would change.
Smokers are more likely to suffer a range of complications before, during and after surgery and that’s exactly what happened to Gill – she had a heart attack followed by a stroke. Smoking increases the risk of heart disease and stroke by 2 to 4 times, even more so in women, who are 25% more likely to suffer a heart attack than men who smoke.
To look at Gill you wouldn’t think there was anything wrong, but brain damage caused by the stroke has severely impacted her both physically and mentally.
Like one-third of stroke survivors Gill now has problems speaking and writing. While she knows what she wants to say she cannot find the words. This caused her to lose her beloved job in customer services and has inhibited her once thriving social life.
Some of the most common effects of stroke are physical. For Gill it’s a loss of sensation in her hands and feet. A keen cyclist before her illness, her bike sits unridden because she can no longer grip the handlebars. She’s even relearning the most basic tasks we call take for granted like picking up a phone or doing up a zip.
“I feel like the stroke set my life back by 20 years. I’ve lost my job, social life, and fitness. It felt like a gate had been put in front of me. However I am one of the lucky ones because I’m still alive and I’m determined to get back on my bike once more.” – Gillian
Gillian is now rebuilding her life, starting by quitting smoking. She’s getting help to quit through Champix, a prescription-only medication developed specifically to help people stop smoking. After one year of stopping smoking, risk of heart attack is reduced by half and within two years risk of stroke is reduced to half that of a non-smoker and Gillian is ready to get back to being her former self.
Julie, 53 from Manor
Some effects of smoking are more visible, like tooth loss. Julie lost her front teeth some years ago due to gum disease caused by smoking.
Smokers are more likely to produce bacterial plaque, which leads to gum disease. Once infected, the gums are prevented from healing as smoking causes a lack of oxygen in the bloodstream.
Losing her teeth has been a real knock to Julie’s confidence, making her reluctant to leave the house.
“You don’t worry so much when you lose your back teeth, but when it’s your front teeth it makes you really self-conscious. I don’t like going out as I fear people will judge me.” – Julie
But it’s not just the loss of her smile that keeps Julie from living her life to the fullest. She’s had 3 heart attacks and now suffers from COPD, making it difficult to do every day things. She used to love going out and about with family and friends but now spends most of her days at home.
Ex-street cleaner Julie used to be super fit but now she struggles to do housework and is even having to give up one of her dogs, because she can’t meet it’s exercise needs. Becoming Smokefree however, means Julie is less likely to suffer from another heart attack meaning one less thing in her life to worry about.
Mohammed, 38 from Fir Vale
Smoking related illnesses don’t just impact you, but your family too. Mohammed knows this all too well.
He felt out of breath and exhausted after every cigarette, making it difficult to play with his kids. This is because smoking increases the level of poisonous carbon monoxide (CO) in your blood, in turn decreasing oxygen levels, which gives you the energy you need to exercise.
Mohammed is now proud to say he’s a non-smoker and he now has the energy keep up with his children.
In as little as one day of quitting, CO levels drop and the oxygen levels in your blood increase, giving you more energy. Regular carbon monoxide tests through Yorkshire Smokefree Sheffield also helped Mohammed see the positive effects of quitting in addition to feeling the effects of more energy.
It’s not too late to reduce your risk of developing a smoking related disease, or prevent an existing condition getting worse.
Join Geoff, Gillian, Julie and Mohammed and hundreds like them who’ve made a positive change to their health by quitting smoking with support from our partner Yorkshire Smokefree Sheffield.
Visit our partners page and find out how you can start your smokefree journey this New Year.