There had been more than 4,6 million confirmed Covid-19 deaths worldwide as of Friday last week, according to the World Health Organisation. The number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 infections stood at more than 223 million.
The virus is still with us, despite lockdowns, social distancing and vaccinations. In Zimbabwe there are still daily deaths associated with Covid-19, even though the number has reduced compared to those recorded in June and July.
It is well known that the elderly and those with underlying health conditions are most vulnerable to serious illness and death from Covid-19. What may be less well known is that smokers are more vulnerable than non-smokers to serious illness if they become infected with Covid-19.
Tobacco kills more than eight million people worldwide every year, according to the World Health Organisation. More than seven million of these deaths are from direct tobacco use. Around 1,2 million are due to non-smokers being exposed to smoke from other people’s smoking.
Tobacco smoking is a risk factor for many respiratory diseases as well as for many other illnesses, including heart disease and lung cancer.
A review of studies by public health experts convened by the WHO in April last year found that smokers have a higher risk than non-smokers of developing severe illness and dying from Covid‑19.
Given that smoking tobacco reduces lung capacity and that Covid-19 primarily attacks the lungs, it should be no surprise to learn that smokers have a high risk of serious illness from Covid-19 infection.
Smoking tobacco increases the risk of many respiratory infections and can increase the severity of respiratory diseases. It impairs lung function making it harder for the body to fight off coronaviruses and other respiratory diseases.
The World Health Organisation recommends that those who smoke should quit smoking, for the sake of their own health and to help protect their loved ones from exposure to second-hand smoke, not only to reduce the risk of severe illness from Covid-19 but to reduce the risk of the many other illnesses which smokers are at risk of.
Smoking puts you at risk of developing many serious health conditions, including cardiovascular heart and circulatory diseases, chronic lung diseases and diabetes, all of which are themselves underlying health conditions that increase the risk of serious illness and death from Covid-19.
Smoking does not only damage your lungs but also your immune system, making you more vulnerable to respiratory infections such as Covid-19.
According to the WHO, quitting smoking will help your lungs and heart work better from the moment you stop.
Within 20 minutes of giving up smoking, elevated blood pressure and heart rate drop, the WHO says. After 12 hours, the carbon monoxide in the bloodstream drops to normal. Within two to 12 weeks circulation improves and lung function increases. After one to nine months coughing and shortness of breath decreases.
Giving up smoking is the most important step you can take to protect the health of your heart and lungs.
The adverse effect of smoking on your lungs induces various illnesses related to the health of your lungs, such as lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, tuberculosis, asthma, pneumonia, bronchitis and lower respiratory infections.
The link between cigarette smoking and lung cancer is probably well-known to most people. Less well known is the damage it can do to other parts of the body apart from the lungs. It harms nearly every organ of the body. It can lead to diseases affecting the heart and liver and many other health conditions, as well as having an adverse effect on your general health.
It is a major risk factor for heart attacks and strokes and causes peripheral vascular disease and hypertension.
Apart from being the major cause of lung cancer, tobacco can cause cancer in other parts of the body, particularly the pancreas, the larynx and the mouth but even in the bladder, blood, cervix, colon and rectum, oesophagus, kidney and ureter, the stomach and oropharynx, which includes parts of the throat, tongue, soft palate and tonsils
How long a person has been smoking for, how much a person smokes and the tar content of the cigarettes smoked have an impact on the effects of smoking. Those who start smoking early in life and those who smoke high tar content cigarettes are at a higher risk of tobacco-related diseases.
However, even smoking fewer than five cigarettes a day can result in early signs of cardiovascular disease. Cardiovascular disease generally refers to narrowed or blocked blood vessels that can lead to a heart attack, angina, which is a severe chest pain, or a stroke.
Smoking damages blood vessels and can cause them to thicken and grow narrower. This can make the heart beat faster and cause your blood pressure to go up.
While few women in Zimbabwe smoke, a few do. Smoking during pregnancy can adversely affect the development of your baby. It may cause a miscarriage, premature birth and a low birth weight. It can also make it harder to become pregnant.
Women past childbearing age who smoke have been found to have weaker bones than those who never smoked and are thus at greater risk of broken bones. Smoking can cause rheumatoid arthritis as well.
Smoking can affect men’s sperm, which may adversely affect fertility. The incidence of erectile dysfunction has been found to be much higher in smokers than non-smokers.
Smoking also affects the health of teeth and gums and can cause the loss of a tooth or teeth. It increases the risk of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration, which may affect one’s central vision.
So all in all the damage smoking does to your health is considerable, apart from increasing the risk of serious illness and succumbing to Covid-19 should you become infected with this deadly coronavirus which has had such a serious effect on the lives of millions throughout the globe.
Giving up smoking may be difficult for those who have become addicted to it. However, doing so can improve your health and lower your risk of many dangerous health conditions, including serious illness as a result of Covid-19 infection.
The information in this article is provided as a public service by the Cimas iGo Wellness programme, which is designed to promote good health. It is provided for general information only and should not be construed as medical advice. Readers should consult their doctor or clinic on any matter related to their health or the treatment of any health problem. — firstname.lastname@example.org or WhatsApp 0772 161 829 or phone 024-2773 0663.