The teenage years are the threshold when we form our personalities for the future adult life. It is also the time for once-in-a-lifetime experiments, when we take a shot at all-known vices with a just-once mentality. Such endeavors, of course, are always risky, considering that most of our adult vices stem from our teenage years. “Just once” can quickly turn into “forever.”
Out of all vices, drinking and smoking are the adolescent favorites, although secrecy doesn’t allow us to grasp the severity of the situation. In 2019, almost 25% of people aged 14 and 15 had at least one drink, and in 2020, 4.5 million teenagers consumed tobacco products, especially e-cigarettes. Although one sip of alcohol doesn’t cause addiction, one cigarette is often enough to get hooked, which is no wonder why 200 young Americans turn experiments into addiction daily. Social pressure, the link between smoking and AOD (i.e., alcohol and other drugs), and a precarious understanding of addiction lead our nation’s youth to adulthood with medical problems.
Teenagers rarely ponder the immense workload that organs have to put in to keep up with their vices. Your body’s engine, the heart, beats about 100,000 times per day and delivers blood through a network of vessels long enough to circle the Earth four times! Such a Herculean effort does not leave room for error or unhealthy lifestyle choices. Unfortunately, our conscious sabotage leaves marks on the cardiac system, especially in the arteries. Did you know that a smoker and drinker’s arteries can significantly stiffen from a young age? Keep reading below to find out more.
The Effects of Smoking and Drinking on the Human Body
Every mosaic loses its grandeur once enough people have stepped and caused the little pebbles to lose their color. Once a single pebble fades, the whole mosaic becomes incomplete. Drinking and smoking have the same effect on the human body, although multiple organs live with the consequences. The liver, the pancreas, the brain all have to suffer such faulty choices, not to mention the weakened immune system and the increased risks of certain cancers. Basically, we consciously sabotage ourselves without receiving anything in return.
But the most alarming drinking and smoking threats to our bodies have to do with the cardiac system. Both vices are linked with different forms of cardiovascular disease (or CVD). For example, indulging in more than three drinks per day enhances the risk of ischemic stroke (i.e., caused by blood flow deficiency) and myocardial infarction (i.e., heart attack). Furthermore, smoking, regardless of form, adds insult to injury by increasing the chance of congestive heart failure, hemorrhagic stroke (i.e., bleeding in the brain), and arterial disease.
Although young drinkers and smokers believe they can kick these vices before suffering from any medical issues, the truth is, they might already be suffering the consequences, especially in their arteries. Research has proved that even mild alcohol and tobacco consumption can cause arterial stiffening, therefore setting teenagers on a course to CVDs. The remaining questions are, “How far is the arterial stiffening process? and “How can we reverse the process?”
What Happens to Our Arteries?
Typically, as the aging process kicks in, our arteries naturally lose their elasticity. However, drinking and smoking heavily influence the speed at which the stiffening process develops. Therefore, the further teenagers indulge in these vices, the more the CVD risk increases.
Researchers from the UCL have shown that teenagers who drank more than 10 drinks in a typical drinking day had a 4.7% increase in arterial stiffening than “light” drinkers (i.e., less than three drinks). At the other end, high-intensity smokers (more than 100 cigarettes ever) had an arterial stiffening increase of 3.7% compared with light-intensity smokers. However, at the top of the ladder sit teenagers who heavily indulge in these two vices, whose arteries thicken 10.8% faster than those who “stay clean.” Although slight in the short run, these percentages can prove troubling at a later age, when arterial stiffening gives rise to other CVDs.
How Can Teenagers Reverse Arterial Stiffening?
However, the battle is not yet lost. Vices do leave a stain on our health, but all stains can be removed with proper care. The researchers who conducted the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) in the U.K. encourage teenagers to bid smoking and drinking goodbye and embrace a healthy lifestyle. Professor John Deanfield, one of the ALSPAC researchers, affirms that “If teenagers stopped smoking and drinking during adolescence, their arteries returned to normal.” And the benefits don’t stop there — ex-smokers frequently cite improved breathing, appetite, sleep, taste, and smell as short-term benefits of kicking this habit, not to mention the improved cardiac function and blood flow that follow suit. So there’s no better time to defeat these vices right now, during the teenage years, while the body still preserves its miraculous healing capabilities!
Your Body Is Your Temple – Worship It!
Here at Top Doctor Magazine, we advise teenagers to spend their precious adolescent years healthily, without resorting to vices for social recognition. From personal experience, ex-drinkers and ex-smokers can testify that these vices are nothing but parasites who take your energy and health away without giving anything helpful in return. Therefore, we hope that our young readers will ponder the implications of their decisions before lighting another cigarette or ordering another pint and settle up with these vices forever.