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    10 Overlooked Reasons to Quit Smoking

    If you need more incentive to quit smoking, here are some reasons that you may not know about.

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    Overall, 15% of past and present smokers had experienced erectile dysfunction, more commonly known as impotence. Among men who had never smoked, 12% had erection problems, according to the study, presented last year at the American Heart Association's annual Conference on Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology and Prevention in Miami.

    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," Simon P. Kelly, MD, an ophthalmic surgeon with Bolton Hospitals in the U.K, wrote in the March 4, 2004 issue of the BMJ. He came to his conclusion after reviewing three studies involving 12,470 patients.

    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, according to the study in the October issue of the journal Arthritis & Rheumatism.

    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.

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