As you age, your body naturally becomes a little weaker, and your skin slowly sags. It's just part of life. However, when you smoke, you accelerate the aging process, making yourself look and feel older than you actually are. If you are a smoker, put down that cigarette and take a look at these five ways smoking makes you older before your time.

Smoking Causes Wrinkles

One way smoking makes you look older is that it ages your skin, and it does this in several ways. First, the nicotine in cigarettes narrows blood vessels, which means your skin doesn't get enough oxygen and nutrients to keep it youthful and healthy. On top of that, many of the chemicals in tobacco smoke contain free radicals. Free radicals damage collagen and elastin, which are important for smooth, firm skin. As the collagen and elastin disappear, your skin starts to sag. Last, smoking increases your white blood cell count and lowers your red blood cell count, which can replace your skin's healthy glow with a pale, dull appearance.  

Smoking Attacks Bone Health

It's not uncommon for an elderly person to fall and break a hip, but you're still young, so your bones should be tough. Unfortunately, if you smoke, this may not be the case. In fact, smoking increases your risk of osteoporosis. Smoking affects the hormones in your body, such as estrogen and cortisol. Estrogen levels decrease and cortisol levels increase, which leads to bone loss. Plus, those same free radicals that cause sagging skin actually kill osteoblast (the cells in your body that make bones), so it takes longer to heal from bone fractures.

Smoking Damages Your Muscles

It's not just your bones that are deteriorating when you smoke. Your muscles become weak too, making it difficult to do the same activities a non-smoker of your age can do with ease. Thanks to those narrowing blood vessels, your muscles also can't get the oxygen they need to stay healthy, which may cause muscle you already have to deteriorate. Plus, building new muscle to replace what you've lost is difficult too. Smokers are also more prone to muscle aches, and their muscles tire out quicker than non-smokers, which makes it even harder to stay active.

Smoking Leads to Hair Loss

It's common for your hair to thin as you age, but again, smoking can accelerate this process, causing you to lose hair or even become bald. The toxins in smoke can actually damage the hair follicles, making them unable to produce hair. Of course, the problem doesn't just stop there. Those pesky narrowing blood vessels get to work on your scalp too. Without enough blood supply or nutrients, your hair follicles just can't do their job.

Smoking Weakens Your Immune System

It seems like the older you get, the more prone you are to getting sick because the elderly tend to have weaker immune systems. Well, as a smoker, you can add yourself to that list. The toxins in cigarettes can make your immune system weak, so you aren't able to fight off regular diseases as well. However, the longer you smoke, the worse your immune system gets, and you may become more vulnerable to other diseases, such as multiple sclerosis or even cancer. Even when you aren't sick, your body is constantly fighting because smoking increase the number of white blood cells, which also increases the risk of infection.

There are so many reasons you should stop smoking, but the biggest reason is because it simply ages you prematurely. When you stop smoking, many of these symptoms drastically improve, but some of them may be irreversible, such as advanced osteoporosis, so stop smoking now before it gets worse. For more information about the risks of smoking, contact resources like Sarasota Arthritis Center.