Blood sugar, also known as blood glucose, is the main sugar our body uses for energy. It comes from the food we eat, especially carbohydrates. After digestion, our body breaks down these carbs into glucose, which enters our bloodstream. Here, a hormone called insulin acts like a key, unlocking the doors of our cells, and allowing glucose in for energy.

However, problems can arise if our blood sugar isn’t well managed. Chronically high blood sugar, often associated with diabetes, can lead to serious health issues. This is where meal planning comes in as a powerful tool.

For ROHSI members living with blood sugar concerns, meal planning can be a powerful tool. It goes beyond just choosing healthy foods; it’s about strategically creating a roadmap for your diet and empowering you to manage your blood sugar effectively.

Meal planning involves strategically choosing and preparing your meals and snacks in advance. Here’s why meal planning is a game-changer:

Stability! Regular, balanced meals keep our blood sugar from spiking or dipping dramatically. Planning ensures we have healthy options readily available, preventing unhealthy choices made in a rush.

Portion Control! Planning meals allows us to measure ingredients (appropriate serving) beforehand, avoiding overeating, a significant factor in blood sugar control.

Nutritional Balance! Planning helps incorporate a variety of nutrient-rich foods. Think lean protein for sustained energy, fibre-rich vegetables for slow digestion, and healthy fats for satiety.

Carb Awareness: You can plan meals with a focus on complex carbohydrates, found in whole grains and vegetables. These release glucose slowly, leading to a more gradual rise in blood sugar compared to refined carbohydrates like white bread or sugary drinks.

Predictability! Following a meal plan establishes a consistent eating pattern. This predictability helps your body anticipate and regulate insulin release, leading to better blood sugar control.

Reduced Stress! Knowing what you’ll eat eliminates decision fatigue and grocery store overwhelm. This translates to less stress, which can also impact blood sugar levels.

We must add the following to our meal planning so as to achieve working blood sugar!

Inventory! We must check our pantry, refrigerator, and freezer. Plan meals around what we already have to minimize waste.

Set Goals! We must consider our preferences and dietary needs. Focus on incorporating more non-starchy vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins.

Plan our meals! We must create a weekly schedule with breakfast, lunch, dinner, and healthy snacks.

Batch Cook! We must try and dedicate time to cooking larger portions of protein or grains that can be used in various meals throughout the week.

Get Creative! Try and explore healthy recipe options online or in cookbooks. Find low-carb alternatives for your favourite dishes.

Remember, meal planning is a journey, not a destination. Be flexible, adjust as needed, and most importantly, celebrate your progress! With consistent meal planning, you’ll gain control of your blood sugar and feel empowered on your path to a healthier you.

Courtesy: Rays of Hope Support Initiative (ROHSI) Dietary Unit




Friends and ROHSI Community Members, we forget lukewarm resolutions and tired cliches; this year, we’re saying “No Gree for Anybody” when it comes to our health! It’s time to channel that Nigerian warrior spirit into building a fortress of well-being that leaves anything unhealthy shaking in our boots.

First, we must reclaim our power by prioritising preventative care. We must ditch the negativity. Stop letting whispers of “what ifs” and “can’t-dos” drown out the roar of our potential. Swap the “should haves” for the “will dos.” We must ditch the doctor-only-when-desperate mentality. We must adopt regular checkups, screenings, and even simple self-examinations. They must become our weapons against stealthy threats.

Whether it’s monitoring blood pressure or keeping tabs on that nagging mole, early detection is our battle cry in 2024 and beyond.

Next, we must unleash our inner nutrition, Ninja. We must fuel our bodies with rebellion. No gree for sugary treats, processed junk, or emotional eating. Fill our plate with colourful warriors: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and whole grains. Let them be our health-boosting arsenal. Let them fight for our well-being.

Sugar and processed junk? Those are the invaders lurking at the gates, ready to weaken our defenses. Remember, we are what we eat, so choosing wisely is the key this year!

Stress? We should not let it be our landlord. We must find our stressbusters, our peaceful warriors. Meditation, yoga, laughter with loved ones—let us build a fortress of calm around us. We must prioritise sleep, the ultimate health reset button. We must hit the pillow knowing we’ve claimed our day; we must not succumb to its pressures.

Movement is our shield; we must be ready to sweat our battle cry. Embrace activities that set our soul on fire, not just our feet. Dance, swim, cycle, climb—we must find joy in physical expression. Regular exercise tones our body and bolsters our mind, making you and me an unstoppable force against sluggishness and stress.

We must not also forget that the real enemy sometimes lies within. We must tackle our mental well-being with the same tenacity. Prioritise our sleep, embrace mindfulness, and learn to say “no” when our cup is full. This year, self-care is not a luxury; it’s a superpower. We must recharge our batteries for this and be battle-ready.

This year, the ROHSI Team is saying that health isn’t just a goal; it’s a revolution. It’s saying no to limitations and yes to possibilities. It’s about reclaiming our energy, our strength, and our healthy lives. No more tolerating aches, ignoring checkups, or succumbing to unhealthy habits.” So, let us all spread the word and shout it from the rooftops: “No gree for anybody with our health in 2024!”

Health is our birthright, not a privilege. We are claiming it, owning it, and making this year our healthiest yet. ‘No gree for anything less’!

Courtesy: Rays of Hope Support Initiative (ROHSI) Board and Management Team.




By Julie Corliss, Executive Editor, Harvard Heart Letter

Learning how to take accurate at-home measurements can help your doctor diagnose or treat high blood pressure, a common condition that can harm the heart, kidneys, and brain.

When was the last time you had your blood pressure checked? All adults should have this simple test at least once a year.

If a blood pressure reading at your doctor’s office is elevated—that is, higher than a healthy range—current guidelines from the US Preventive Services Task Force recommend repeating the measurement outside of a clinic setting before starting treatment. But that’s not the only reason why your doctor may suggest regularly tracking your blood pressure at home.

Why monitor blood pressure at home?

“Some people have blood pressure elevations only at the doctor’s office, which is known as white-coat hypertension,” says Dr. Stephen Juraschek, associate professor of medicine at Harvard-affiliated Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. One of the best ways to know if your blood pressure is truly higher than normal is to measure it multiple times at home.

Home monitoring is also a good idea.

  • if your doctor asks you to track readings to help decide if you need to start taking medication to lower blood pressure.
  • If you’ve been diagnosed with high blood pressure and need to adjust your medications to make sure you’re reaching your blood pressure target
  • if you’re pregnant or have had a baby in recent months and your health team is concerned about preeclampsia. This condition is a severe form of high blood pressure that can harm vital organs like the kidneys. When not promptly treated, it sometimes leads to seizures, strokes, or even death.

Which home blood pressure monitor should I buy?

  • Look for a monitor that’s been validated, which means the device has been independently reviewed for accuracy.
  • Avoid monitors that feature cuffs used on the wrist or fingertip. These aren’t as accurate as upper-arm cuffs.
  • Choose and use the right size cuff. Measure the circumference of your upper arm midway between your elbow and shoulder. Most home monitor cuffs can accommodate arm circumferences of 9 to 17 inches, but smaller and larger cuffs are available. A too-small cuff can lead to an artificially high reading, while a loose cuff can give a falsely low reading. For example, a 2023 randomised study of automated blood pressure monitors tested a regular-size cuff on adults who needed a different-size cuff. The researchers found systolic blood pressure readings increased by 19.5 mm Hg for participants who should have used an extra-large cuff and by 4.8 mm Hg for participants who should have used a large cuff.

Very basic models cost as little as $25. But more expensive models, which range from about $50 to $100, may be more convenient to use. They can store multiple readings and send the data to your computer or smartphone—or even directly to the patient portal at your doctor’s office.

Three key points about blood pressure readings

Home blood pressure monitoring is a bit more involved than some people assume. “It’s not something you just do sporadically or whenever you have time,” says Dr. Juraschek.

  • Blood pressure fluctuates throughout the day, which means one isolated reading doesn’t provide accurate information.
  • If you check your blood pressure when you’re upset or stressed, it’s likely to be high. If you take it again right away, you may get another high reading, which feeds a cycle of anxiety and elevated readings, he says.
  • Consistent, repeated measurements provide a far more useful assessment than occasional measurements.

How often should you take your blood pressure at home?

Ask your doctor how often and what time of day to take your blood pressure.

“The gold standard for home monitoring is to take 28 separate measurements, which you can then average to get a representative reading,” says Dr. Juraschek.

That means taking your blood pressure four times a day—twice in the morning and twice in the evening—for seven days in a row. However, even 12 measurements over three days is reasonable, especially if you include one weekend day, Dr. Juraschek says. Your doctor can advise you about what makes the most sense for your situation.

How can you get an accurate blood pressure reading?

Common mistakes can raise your blood pressure reading by a few points, or as much as 10 or even up to 25 points in some cases. Here’s what to do or avoid—and why—for an accurate blood pressure reading.

Wait at least 30 minutes after smoking, consuming caffeine or alcohol, or exercising before taking blood pressure.

Why? Caffeine and nicotine constrict blood vessels and boost your heart rate, which can raise blood pressure. Alcohol dilates blood vessels, possibly lowering blood pressure. And exercise increases heart rate and blood pressure.

Empty your bladder.

Why? A full bladder can put pressure on and reduce blood flow to your kidneys. Your body’s natural response is to raise your blood pressure to make sure your kidneys are getting enough blood.

Sit comfortably, supporting your arm near heart height.

Sit back in your chair with your feet flat on the floor, legs and ankles uncrossed, and your arm extended, palm up, on a table so that your elbow is positioned roughly at heart height.

Why? Crossing your legs, especially at the knee, temporarily raises blood pressure. If your feet or your arm are not supported, your muscles will contract. Even this small amount of isometric exercise can raise your blood pressure. Also, supporting your arm below or above the level of your heart may affect the accuracy of the reading.

Wait a few quiet minutes before taking a reading.

First, wrap the proper-size cuff around your bare arm, about an inch above the crook of your elbow. Sit quietly for a few minutes without distractions like TV, reading, phone scrolling, or talking. Then start the machine to take your blood pressure.

Why? Putting the cuff over clothes—or pushing up your sleeve so that it’s tight around your upper arm—may interfere with an accurate reading, though evidence on this is mixed. Ideally, you want to record blood pressure while feeling relaxed, not distracted, because even minor stress or tension can raise your blood pressure.

This video from the American Heart Association demonstrates the correct technique.

Why is diagnosing high blood pressure so important?

Nearly half of all adults have high blood pressure, but about a third of these people aren’t even aware they have the problem. An accurate diagnosis and treatment are vital, says Dr. Juraschek. Few things in medicine have shown such consistent results as the harms of high blood pressure, which is a major cause of heart attacks, strokes, kidney disease, and cognitive decline.

“It’s called the silent killer for a reason. We don’t feel or experience any of high blood pressure’s effects until it’s too late,” he says.




Diabetes is a chronic condition that affects how the body turns food into energy. It is a major public health problem in Nigeria, with an estimated prevalence of 10.2% in adults. There are two main types of diabetes: type 1 and type 2. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that causes your body to attack the cells that produce insulin. Insulin is a hormone that helps your body’s cells use glucose for energy. Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes. It occurs when your body becomes resistant to insulin or doesn’t produce enough insulin.

Pregnant women are particularly at risk of developing diabetes, a condition known as gestational diabetes. Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that develops during pregnancy. It usually goes away after the baby is born, but it can increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.

Gestational diabetes can cause complications for both the mother and the baby, including premature birth, high birth weight, and an increased risk of type 2 diabetes in later life, as stated earlier. That is why our present and potential pregnant women must attend antenatal care throughout their pregnant period.

Health advocacy and awareness campaigns can play a vital role in curbing the surge of diabetes among pregnant women in Ibadan and other parts of Nigeria. By educating our women about the risk factors for gestational diabetes and the importance of early detection and treatment, these campaigns can help reduce the prevalence of this condition and its associated complications.

The Role Of Government Through The Health Agencies:

Government health agencies have a key role to play in promoting health advocacy and awareness around gestational diabetes. These agencies can develop and implement educational programs for pregnant women and healthcare providers on the risk factors, symptoms, and prevention of gestational diabetes. They can also provide support for women who are diagnosed with gestational diabetes, including access to screening, monitoring, and treatment services.

The Impact Of International Organizations

International organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) also play an important role in promoting health advocacy and awareness around gestational diabetes. These organizations develop and disseminate global guidelines for the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of gestational diabetes. They also provide support for national and local health agencies in implementing these guidelines.

How the government and international organizations can work with local nonprofit organizations to reduce the prevalence of gestational diabetes

The government and international organizations can work with local nonprofit organizations such as the Rays of Hope Support Initiative (ROHSI) to reduce the prevalence of gestational diabetes in Ibadan and other parts of Nigeria. These organizations can work together to develop and implement educational programs for pregnant women and healthcare providers, provide support for women who are diagnosed with gestational diabetes, and advocate for policies that promote the prevention and treatment of gestational diabetes.

Here Are Some Specific Examples Of How The Government, International Organizations, And Local Nonprofit Organizations Can Work Together To Reduce The Prevalence Of Gestational Diabetes In Ibadan:

  • Develop and implement educational programs for pregnant women and healthcare providers. These programs should cover the risk factors, symptoms, and prevention of gestational diabetes. They should also provide information on the importance of early detection and treatment. That is, we must educate our women about the risks of gestational diabetes and how to prevent it. This can be done through health education programs, public awareness campaigns, and one-on-one counselling with healthcare providers, as earlier explained here.
  • Provide support for women who are diagnosed with gestational diabetes. This support may include access to screening, monitoring, and treatment services. It may also include emotional and practical support, such as help with meal planning and exercise.
  • Training healthcare providers in Ibadan to identify and manage gestational diabetes. This will ensure that pregnant women who develop gestational diabetes receive the care they need to protect their health and the health of their babies.
  • Advocate for policies that promote the prevention and treatment of gestational diabetes. This may include advocating for increased funding for gestational diabetes prevention and treatment programs, as well as for policies that promote healthy eating and physical activity among pregnant women.

In Conclusion:

Health advocacy and awareness campaigns can play a vital role in curbing the surge of diabetes among pregnant women in Ibadan and other parts of Nigeria. By working together, the government, international organizations, and local nonprofit organizations can make a significant difference in reducing the prevalence of this condition and its associated complications.

In addition to the above, here are some additional tips for safeguarding present and potential pregnant women in Ibadan and its environment:

  • Encourage pregnant women to eat a healthy diet. A healthy diet for pregnant women includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. It is also important to limit processed foods, sugary drinks, and unhealthy fats.
  • Promote physical activity among pregnant women. Pregnant women should aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise most days of the week.
  • Provide access to prenatal care for all pregnant women. Prenatal care is essential for detecting and managing risk factors for gestational diabetes and other complications of pregnancy.
  • Raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of gestational diabetes. Some of the signs and symptoms of gestational diabetes include increased thirst, frequent urination, and fatigue. Pregnant women who experience any of these symptoms should see a doctor right away.

By following these tips, we can all help to protect the health of present and potential pregnant women in Ibadan and Nigeria as a whole.





For a long time, Mr Apokwo, a native of Ezeagu community in Enugu, a state in the South-Eastern part of Nigeria, thought that his frequent urination was because he took Agbo – the traditional herbal mixture or concoction believed to contain potent herbs that are capable of treating different ailments.

Like the average Nigerian and their preference for staple food, he continued to indulge in starchy foods.

A few weeks before this revelation to Guardian Life, the attendant at the chemist shop had told him that his bouts of fatigue, weight loss and constant urination were nothing but signs of the twin devils of “typhoid and malaria”, and gave him medications for them. The sharp pain and sudden swelling he had in his flank, leading down into his groin, prompted his wife to take him to the hospital, where he was diagnosed with chronic kidney failure – one of the complications of poorly managed diabetes. 

“Not only is diabetes an ailment with a lot of long-term complications, but it can also actually kill in the short-term if not properly managed,” an endocrinologist in a Nigerian teaching hospital who preferred to be unnamed told Guardian Life. While it is well known that rapid increases in blood sugar over a short time can lead to immediate death, long-term uncontrolled blood sugar levels can lead to blindness, heart and kidney disease as well as diabetic foot disease. 

Globally, diabetes is one of the 10 leading causes of death. According to the International Diabetic Federation (IDF), Nigeria has the highest occurrence of diabetes sufferers and people with impaired fasting glucose in Africa. In 2020, a meta-analysis reported that approximately 5.8% (about 6 million) of adult Nigerians are suffering from diabetes. Like other middle and low-income countries, two-thirds of those with diabetes are undiagnosed.

Diabetes is a lifelong disease in which the body cannot produce enough insulin. In some other cases, it cannot use the insulin it produces. In both instances, this leaves the affected person with an excess amount of sugar or glucose in the body, which is then ferried around in the blood, capable of causing damage to all the tissues and organs of the body. Insulin is the key hormone involved in the storage and controlled release of glucose in the blood. Sugar is transported into the muscles and fat cells with the help of insulin for use as energy. Without insulin, glucose remains in the blood, which over time can cause serious health problems such as heart disease, vision loss and kidney disease. 

Symptoms of diabetes include:

  •         increased thirst and urination
  •         increased hunger
  •         fatigue
  •         blurred vision
  •         numbness or tingling in the feet or hands
  •         sores that do not heal
  •         unexplained weight loss

There isn’t a cure for diabetes yet, although there are promising discoveries, none of these have been shown to be of practical use at the moment. What this means is that diabetes is required to be closely controlled and managed. There are medications to help maintain the blood sugar at an appropriate level and there are other options for maintaining a decent blood sugar level, including healthy lifestyle habits like proper dietary intake and exercise.

The development

Diabetes is of two main types, aptly called type 1 and type 2. In addition, diabetes may develop in pregnant women and that is known as gestational diabetes. In type 1 diabetes, what occurs is, the body’s immune cells attack the organ that produces insulin. The reason for this is unknown. This inability to produce enough insulin for its usage leads to high sugar levels in the blood, called diabetes. 

“Due to attacks on the organ responsible for producing insulin, called the pancreas, by soldiers in the body that normally fights infections, called immune cells, not enough insulin is produced for the body’s use”. This means that people with type 1 diabetes often find out very early in life. In contrast, type 2 diabetes tends to develop much later in life and is thought to develop from the body’s resistance to the action of insulin. Simply put, there is enough insulin, but its effectiveness wanes as time progresses, leading to excess sugar, which can be harmful to the body. While type 1 diabetes is typically due to some problems with the internal workings of the body, type 2 diabetes is usually because of lifestyle habits and some risk factors, like obesity, being black or having other illnesses like poorly controlled blood pressure or cholesterol levels. 

A common topic of discourse is the role of carbonated drinks and sugar in the development of diabetes. Large-scale research shows that regular consumption of sugary drinks, including cola, lemonade and energy drinks, raises the risks of obesity, heart disease and type 2 diabetes. For people with an existing risk, it appears the increased intake of sugars increases their risk of developing diabetes. As such, it is recommended that not over 10% of energy each day comes from sugars. This equates to 70g or less of sugar for men and 50g or less for women.

Alternative therapy

Nigerians are no strangers to herbal medicine. In a country where the rural population was put at 48.04% in 2020, the resort to herbal medicine is largely relied upon. More so, while access to standard healthcare has been a plaguing problem across the country, Nigerians are finding alternatives to it.  

Despite the calls to ban the selling of Agbo from the roadside hawkers by the Herbs Sellers Association of Nigeria, Agbo continues to be very popular. A few concerns are surrounding this recommendation. In recent times, there have been rising allegations that medications such as paracetamol have been used to adulterate the mixture to varying extents, for a myriad of reasons. Highlighting the dangers of using this concoction, medical experts expressed that its long-term use can lead to kidney and liver damage because of the toxic levels of medications and the herbal components of the concoctions. 

Regarding diabetes treatment, Agbo is not the only source that Nigerians have opted for. Mrs Shola, a retired nurse, is convinced that bitter leaf is a potent resource in managing blood sugar. Her husband, a diabetic patient, has been managed using bitter leaf for years with great results. What she has done is to add bitter leaf water to his daily routine, requiring him to consume it at specific periods and with few side effects. According to her, bitter leaf is not only effective in the present time but had been used in previous generations across the world to aid in the alleviation of diabetes. To buttress this, a paper in the Medical Journal of Islamic World Academy of Sciences surmises that bitter leaf has properties that not only reduce sugar levels but heal the pancreas.

 The medical consultant who spoke to Guardian Life opines that while it is true that it has some beneficial effects in managing diabetes, the belief that it can solely treat diabetes should be neglected. “We may be right about the use of herbal concoctions, but until universal medical practice conducts some research and says that its use is consistent with the regulation of blood sugar, it should not be recognised as the sole treatment for diabetes,” she says.

Dr Ruth Uzo, a certified nephrology nurse and a deputy director at the Enugu State Teaching Hospital, says that bitter leaf is a brilliant source. “If they drink it in the morning, it prevents it from getting worse. Bitter leaf and Agbo cannot do everything, however. They need to see an endocrine specialist in the hospital. What we are running from is complications of diabetes because it affects the nerves, the organs, and every part of the body. I will also advise such people to use Moringa.”


For people living with diabetes, one of the symptoms is fatigue, a direct/ironic contrast to exercise. Dr Uzo notes it is a necessity. “They can take a walk, perform indoor exercises; lie on the bed, straighten their legs, do pace exercise or brisk walking, just to ensure some form of activity for around 30 minutes per day or 180 minutes over the course of a week. The idea is for them to be fit and retrain their bodies to use sugar effectively.”

Although this may seem tasking, it has been shown to be very helpful in helping curb outrageous increases in blood sugar over time.

The Diet

One of the horrors of living with diabetes is the eventual cause of premature death if caution is thrown to the wind, a fear that caused Mr and Mrs Augusta to change their diet. As a rule, people diagnosed with diabetes should have a higher concentration of protein, vitamins, vegetables and fibre-rich foods compared to starchy foods or carbohydrates, as there is little to no insulin to break it down. It is, however, important to note that avoiding carbohydrates in its entirety or filling up on other food classes may be detrimental. The primary goal with dieting in diabetes is with portion control, which enables one to “use” up the resources available from food before the next meal, to prevent excesses. Exercise is also one of the healthy lifestyles that a diabetic will have to adopt.

“Do you know that most of these starchy foods like garri is not too good for a prediabetic or someone that has already been diagnosed?” she chips in.

Healthy foods

In collaboration with a dietician, Guardian Life wrote about foods that diabetics can eat.  

Here’s a list of healthy local foods which can be enjoyed on a diabetic menu:

  •         Nigerian soups: Vegetable soup, Okra soup, Edikan Ikong, Waterleaf soup, Ogbono soup, Egusi soup, Afang soup
  •         Staple foods (swallow): Wheatmeal fufu, Guinea corn fufu, Unripe plantain fufu
  •         Stews and sauces: Tomato stew, Garden egg stew, Shredded chicken sauce, Shrimp sauce, Fresh Fish sauce or stew, Smoked fish sauce 
  •         Low-carb meals: Brown basmati rice and stew, Unripe plantain porridge, Moi Moi, Boiled plantain with stew, Roasted plantain with fish sauce, Plantain with beans porridge, Beans and whole wheat bread 
  •         Healthy snacks: Garden eggs with peanut butter, Coconuts, Boiled groundnuts, Akara balls, Tiger nuts, Nigerian pear 
  •         Comfort foods: Isi ewu, Nkwobi, Cow leg, Cow tongue, Fish pepper soup, Chicken pepper soup, Snail pepper soup, Peppered snail, Liver sauce, Gizzard pepper soup
  •         Healthy drinks: Zobo without sweeteners, Guinea corn (Dawa) kunu, Millet (joro) kunu, Unsweetened yoghurt



There are an estimated 6.9 million cigarette smokers in the UK[i], despite the dozens of health risks that smoking presents. It’s something that many people pick up as a habit when they are young, and quickly become addicted to it. Although education surrounding the risks of smoking has become much better in recent years, there is still a long way to go in the battle to stop smoking across the population, for good.

The effects of smoking on the body

The typical risk that most people associate with smoking is lung cancer or lung disease. However, the risks of smoking extend to other areas of the body – causing diseases and conditions which are often not reversible.


The risk of cancer is increased by smoking. Some of these cancers include:

  • Bladder Cancer – a third of all bladder cancer cases are caused by smoking. Symptoms of bladder cancer can include frequency or urge incontinence, blood in the urine, and more.
  • Bowel Cancer – 7% of bowel cancer cases in the UK have a link with smoking. Symptoms can include blood in the stool, sudden weight loss, and eventually may lead to bowel incontinence. Read more about the link between bowel cancer and incontinence.
  • Mouth Cancer – Smokers are 10x more likely to develop oral cancers. Symptoms of oral cancers include pain, growths, and sores.
  • Oesophagus Cancer – 35 in 100 cases of oesophagus cancer are caused by smoking. Symptoms of oesophagus cancer can include difficulty swallowing, loss of appetite/weight loss and pain in the stomach, back, or chest.


As well as cancers, the risk of developing different conditions across the body increases when you smoke. Those who smoke are at high risk of heart disease, gum disease, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and more.

What’s in a cigarette?

Cigarettes contain over 60 chemicals

Most of us are aware of the chemicals that go into cigarettes which make them so harmful. But do you know how harmful these chemicals are and which other household products they are used in? For example, Acetone, which is the main ingredient in nail polish remover, is also found in cigarettes! Other chemicals include:

These chemicals are highly damaging. Below, we explain these chemicals further

  • Formaldehyde – embalming fluid. This is not added to cigarettes but is naturally produced when the components of a cigarette (sugars, cellulose fibres, carob, etc.) are lit and burn together.
  • Methanol – a main component in rocket fuel. This forms a major part of cigarette smoke. The chemical converts to formaldehyde in the liver, which can cause disease.
  • Nicotine – is highly addictive and used as an insecticide. Most cigarettes contain around 10 milligrams of the chemical. It causes your brain to associate smoking with pleasure, which causes addiction.
  • Tar – used for laying roads. This chemical is created by burning cigarettes. It is a cancer-causing chemical that forms a sticky layer inside your lungs, leading to potential damage and disease.
  • Ammonia – a household cleaner. Used as a filler for tobacco, ammonia makes it easier for the body to absorb nicotine.
  • Arsenic – used in rat poison. Although not added to cigarettes directly, it is usually a component of pesticides that are used to grow tobacco.
  • Butane – used in lighter fluid. Butane is used to keep the tip of a cigarette burning. It is highly toxic.
  • Cadmium – active component in battery acid. This is another chemical that is used in pesticides which are used when farming tobacco. It causes oxidative damage to molecules within the body.
  • Carbon monoxide – is released when cigarettes are lit and burned. Each cigarette produces 5 – 20.2mg of carbon monoxide. It is a toxic gas that replaces oxygen and can prevent your lungs and heart from working properly.
  • Lead – a harmful compound used in batteries. This is one of many metals that are present in cigarettes. Lead deposits can accumulate in the lungs and build up in your airways.

Have smoking laws been effective?

Over the past couple of decades, laws and legislation have been put in place to reduce the number of smokers in the UK. The data so far shows that these have had varying levels of success, with the number of people smoking having reduced significantly compared to 2011.

Since 2011, the prevalence of smokers has decreased greatly.

The proportion of smokers in the UK has fallen massively since 2011 and is predicted to keep dropping at a steady rate.

2007 – The UK Smoking Ban was rolled out, banning smoking in enclosed public spaces. Smoking age rose to 18

2008 – Cigarette packaging started carrying picture warnings

2011 – Tobacco vending machines banned in the UK

2014 – Legislation changes so picture warnings must cover 65% of cigarette packaging

Packs of less than 20 cigarettes prohibited from sale

2015 – Standardised cigarette packaging was introduced

Smoking in a car with a child present was made illegal

Tips for Quitting Smoking

Smoking is an addiction, and quitting can be very difficult – especially for those who have been smoking for many years. As well as the physical addition to nicotine in the cigarettes, the physical habit of smoking is something which is notoriously hard to break.

Remember that you don’t need to struggle in silence on your journey to quitting smoking……..

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