Heavy breathing is one sign that your smoking habit is causing long-term health effects. Learn how it happens and what other signs to watch out for.
Have you noticed that you seem to struggle to take a breath after climbing a flight of stairs or walking across the parking lot after work?
Maybe the long winter has left you out of shape. Or maybe your smoking habit is catching up with you.
Whether you’ve been smoking for years or even just a few weeks, if you’re dealing with heavy breathing, your cigarettes are a likely culprit.
If you’ve noticed that you’re having trouble breathing and are wondering why your cigarette habit is causing it, keep reading. We’re breaking down the short and long-term health effects of smoking, the signs you should look out for, why they happen, and what you can do to put a stop to them.
The short-term health effects of smoking begin to appear after your very first cigarette.
While bad breath and an acrid taste in your mouth may not seem dangerous to your health, their signs of a bigger problem. You’ll also be exposing your teeth to chemicals that will leave them stained.
After you smoked your first cigarette, you likely coughed as you inhaled the smoke. That’s because you were breathing in more than 7,000 known chemicals that exist in cigarette smoke. Those chemicals are on the major reasons that you’re struggling with heavy breathing.
Another symptom of smoking caused by those chemicals that you’ll start to experience right away is addiction. The nicotine in cigarettes is highly addictive, which means that after your first smoke, you’ll start craving the next. It gives you an immediate boost of energy that wanes as soon as you’re done inhaling.
If you don’t break the addiction right away, the pull to continue smoking will only get stronger.
Unfortunately, some of the short-term effects of smoking are misleading. That boost of energy you feel will also leave you alert. You’ll feel as though you can concentrate more than you’ve ever been able to before.
As you breathe out the smoke, you’ll feel relaxed.
These pleasant symptoms can make it easy to forget about the negative side effects that you’re experiencing at the same time. Even when you start heavy breathing, you may still find it hard to give up the seemingly positive effects you’re feeling.
Don’t be fooled; the long-term health effects are much more serious and will begin to appear days, weeks, months, or a few years after you first start smoking.
The short-term health effects of smoking are far from the only problems you’ll experience.
The chemicals that cause you to start having trouble breathing are also wreaking havoc on your lungs and respiratory function.
Healthy lungs are lined with cilia, which are hair-like appendages that help to collect and move particles out of the lungs to keep them clean. But when you inhale cigarette smoke, those cilia become clogged, slowing their movements.
The slower they get, the less the cilia are able to clean out your lungs, allowing other chemicals and particles from the cigarette smoke to collect in your lungs.
The buildup of chemicals does more than just cause heavy breathing.
If you already suffer from asthma, your symptoms are likely to worsen.
Asthma causes the tubes that allow air to pass in and out of your lungs to narrow. The worse your asthma is, the more narrow those tubes become.
Some asthma sufferers only experience difficulty breathing when they exert themselves, such as when exercising. Others can experience an asthma attack after something as simple as climbing a set of stairs.
Asthma is dangerous enough on its own. When you add smoking into the mix, it can get even worse.
The chemicals in cigarettes can clog your airways. If your airways are already narrowed from the effects of asthma, this can cause more frequent, and more serious, asthma attacks.
COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, is another serious long-term effect of smoking. COPD is a condition in which your airways swell, reducing airflow to your lungs.
There are two common conditions that contribute to COPD.
One of those conditions is chronic bronchitis. This condition causes increased mucus production and inflammation of your airways. Besides heavy breathing, you’ll also suffer from a painful, persistent cough.
Another common long-term health condition that contributes to COPD is emphysema. Emphysema is a condition in which the air sacs of your lungs wither and eventually break. This reduces the amount of air your lungs can hold, reducing the oxygen that makes it into your bloodstream.
In the U.S. alone, lung cancer kills over 150,000 people a year. The leading cause of lung cancer is cigarette smoke.
The chemicals in cigarette smoke are what causes lung cancer. While smokers are at an increased risk because of the quantity of smoke that they breathe in, breathing second-hand smoke can also cause lung cancer.
Like other forms of cancer, lung cancer can be difficult to fight, especially if left untreated. If you do develop lung cancer, quitting smoking is the best thing you can do. Depending on how far your cancer has progressed, you may have limited options for fighting it.
Certain treatments, such as medical marijuana, can help alleviate the painful symptoms of lung cancer.
Some of the symptoms of long-term and short-term health effects caused by smoking are obvious, while others are less so.
Heavy breathing is an obvious sign of a bigger problem. But it can be easy to overlook if you don’t exercise often, or if you’re having trouble breathing while doing a more physical activity than you usually partake in.
Another obvious, yet easy to overlook sign of the ill-effects of smoking is a harsh cough or difficulty swallowing. At first, it can be easy to mistake these side effects for a cold, as can a hoarse voice.
Chest pain or a shortness of breath that causes you to pass out is much harder to ignore. You may also experience paralysis on one side of your face, loss of feeling in your fingers or toes, or pain in your limbs.
If you notice any of these symptoms, no matter how severe they are, it’s important to see a doctor. These symptoms could be signs of a more serious underlying condition.
The best thing you can do, besides consulting a doctor, when these signs start to appear, is to stop smoking.
Some serious health conditions caused by smoking will lessen in severity when you do stop smoking. For instance, studies have shown that smokers who suffer from asthma can see a decrease in symptoms and fewer attacks within two weeks of quitting smoking.
The improvement you’ll see when you quit smoking largely depends on how long you’ve smoked, as well as how long you have suffered from the health condition.
Emphysema, for instance, causes lasting damage to your airways. Even after you quit smoking, you’ll likely still suffer from difficulty breathing. However, continuing to smoke will worsen your condition, which makes quitting essential to keeping your symptoms at bay.
Other, less serious side effects of smoking can be treated. You can whiten your teeth through at-home treatments or with regular visits to a dentist. You can increase your lung function through exercise and other treatments.
The longer you go without smoking, the more your lung function and overall health will improve.
Once you do quit smoking, it can take a long time for some symptoms to decrease. In some cases, they may never go away entirely. Luckily, there are ways to treat the pain and side effects of conditions caused by smoking, such as the use of medical marijuana.
If you’ve suffered from the ill-effects of smoking, such as heavy breathing, and you’ve struggled to quit or reverse the effects, it’s time to find an alternative.
Medical marijuana is one great option.
Marijuana can a variety of positive effects on smokers. It can help alleviate the pain caused by various lung diseases and smoking. It can help calm your nerves and give you a better chance of fighting the draw of nicotine addiction.
Marijuana sometimes gets a bad reputation, thanks to the prevalence of illegal usage. But the reality is that it’s a safe and healthy alternative to smoking. It contains none of the dangerous chemicals found in cigarettes and isn’t addictive.
If you’re ready to stop smoking or looking to lessen the side effects of cigarette use, it’s time to try medical marijuana. First, you’ll need to find the right local dispensary for you.