Everyday we are faced with choices, choices about what to eat, what to drink, whether to exercise, whether to use drugs or drink alcohol, and whether to smoke cigarettes. Sometimes we make choices that are good for us and sometimes we make choices that can damage our body's, both inside and out. We can't change the risks for diseases we inherit from our parents, but we can reduce our chances of suffering a heart attack or a stroke, and developing diseases such as liver cirrhosis, Emphysema, lung cancer, and other cancers by making better, healthier choices.
The U.S. Surgeon General has declared that obesity has reached epidemic proportions in the United States. Approximately 35 percent of women and 31 percent of men are considered seriously overweight (Stanford Heath Care. "Obesity". 2014). Making unhealthy food choices and not exercising can cause health problems which include diabetes, heart disease, plaque build up in your arteries, joint problems and arthritis, and difficulty breathing while you sleep. Obesity also increases a person's risk of developing breast cancer, colon cancer, and prostate cancer and often leads to psychological problems such as depression. Being overweight not only affects a person's internal organs but can also have a huge effect on their mental well being and quality of life.
Smoking cigarettes is one of the worst choices a person can make. Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable deaths in the United States. Lung cancer is not the only risk of smoking, and according to a report by the Surgeon General, cigarette use is responsible for more than 350,000 deaths a year from heart disease (Zahler an Paseli, pg 71). Along with increased risk of heart disease and development of lung cancer, smoking also causes chronic bronchitis and emphysema, both are diseases which cause the lungs to lose their normal ability to expand when a person takes a breath in and makes it difficult for the person to exhale the CO2 from their lungs. Both Emphysema and chronic bronchitis can also lead to heart failure due to the increased work load on the heart caused by the restricted lungs. Smoking also causes people to age at a quicker rate and causes sagging skin, age spots, and an increase in wrinkles on the face, especially around the mouth and the eyes.
When smoking is combined with a lazy lifestyle and poor eating habits which lead to obesity, the risk of a person developing heart disease is almost tripled (Zahler and Paseli. Pg 73). Being an overweight, unhealthy smoker increases a persons cholesterol which builds up in the arteries and can cause a heart attack, a stroke, and damage other organs with fatty plaque deposits. An overweight person who smokes has a 70% greater chance of developing heart disease and having a heart attack than a non-smoker of normal weight (CDC.gov). It takes only 24 hours after a person quits smoking for the risk of having a heart attack to decrease significantly.
Most people know that drinking to much alcohol can cause cirrhosis of the liver but alcohol use has been linked to over 60 diseases, including cancer of the mouth, throat, stomach, intestines, liver, and breast, increased risk of heart disease, blood clots, stroke, heart attacks, enlarged heart, and abnormal heart rhythms (WebMD.com/mental health and addictions). Alcohol can also seizures, depression, memory loss, and can shrink areas of the brain leading to problems taking care of yourself as you get older. Combining alcohol with smoking, no exercise, and being overweight can greatly reduce a persons life span.
It is often difficult to say no to a cheeseburger and French fries, or turn off the video game to go outside and get some exercise, but when you see how not exercising and being overweight can affect a person's physical and mental health, it makes you want to make better choices and pick the healthier option. Seeing the effects of smoking, alcohol, and drugs on your body should also stop a person from doing any of them. While some of us are born with an increased risk for certain diseases, it is often the daily choices we make that will determine whether or not we ultimately develop those diseases.
Smoking, Alcohol, and Drugs. Zahler, R, MD and Piseli, J, RN. Ch 6, pg 71-82. 2013
Heart of a non-smoker and the heart of a smoker
Healthy liver and a liver with cirrhosis from alcohol use