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    Is Smoking Dragging You Down?

    10 reasons to quit smoking beyond the big health threats.

    7. Increased infections

    You may know about the long-term health risks associated with smoking, but did you realize that smoking also makes you more susceptible to seasonal flus and colds? "People don't realize how much more frequently smokers get viral, bacterial and other infections," Fiore says.

    Tiny hairs called cilia that line the respiratory tract, including the trachea and bronchial tubes, are designed to protect us from infection. "Cilia are constantly waving in a way that grabs bacteria and viruses that get into the trachea and pushes them up and out so we cough them out and swallow them and destroy them with our stomach acids," Fiore explains.

    One of the toxic effects of cigarette smoke is that it paralyzes the cilia, thereby destroying this core protective mechanism. That's why smokers have so many more infections. Within a month of quitting, however, your cilia start performing their protective role once again.

    8. You're a danger to others

    Secondhand smoke is estimated to cause 50,000 deaths every year. It's no wonder: More than 4,500 separate chemicals are found in a puff of tobacco smoke, and more than 40 of those are known carcinogens.

    "It takes very little secondhand smoke to trigger a heart attack or stroke in someone who is predisposed to that condition," Schroeder says. The ingredients in smoke cause platelets, the material in our blood that helps it clot, become sticky. This increases the risk of heart attacks.

    "There have been a number of studies to show that when a community goes smoke-free the proportion of heart attacks seen at the hospitals goes down by 20% or 30%," Schroeder says.

    9. Impact on physical activity

    Many smokers report a diminished ability over time to comfortably do things as simple as climbing a set of stairs or enjoying sports activities they once easily took part in such as volleyball or jogging.

    According to Schroeder, even young athletes in otherwise top physical condition don't perform as well if they smoke because over time, smoking causes the lungs and heart to work harder.

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