World No Tobacco Day 2024: 6 medical tests every smoker must take

A woman breaking a cigarette before taking medical tests for smokers

If you are a perennial smoker, it is a must that you keep a closer check on your health. Smoking can be injurious to almost every part of your body. People who smoke may be more susceptible to health problems, including heart disease, diabetes, and lung cancer. Its side effects may not be immediate, but getting regular medical tests may help smokers stay aware and alert. On the occasion of World No Tobacco Day, which falls on May 31, we tell you all about the important medical tests for smokers.

Why is smoking bad for health?

Smoking is not good for your health because it releases harmful chemicals and toxins into our bodies, leading to a wide range of serious health issues. Several health issues like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), lung cancer, cardiovascular problems, stroke are associated with smoking, says preventive healthcare expert Dr Apurrva Sawant. You must also quit smoking, as it impairs the immune system, making people more susceptible to infections.

Quit smoking for better health. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

What are the medical tests for smokers?

Smokers should consider taking regular and multiple medical tests to understand the impact of smoking on their health and detect any early signs of disease. These tests include:

1. Spirometry

This test measures lung function by determining the amount of air a person can exhale after taking a deep breath and how quickly can one exhale. During the test, you need to breathe into a mouthpiece which is connected to a spirometer. No special preparation is required for this test, and it mostly takes about 15 minutes. It helps in detecting several conditions like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. If you are a smoker, take the test once in six months.

2. Chest X-ray

It provides images of the lungs and chest cavity, and helps in detecting abnormalities like lung infections, chronic lung conditions or lung cancer. You will be asked to remove any metal objects before the X-ray. This takes just a few minutes. It should be done once a year, says the expert.

3. Diabetes tests

Individuals who have a habit of smoking are 30 to 40 percent more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than non-smokers, according to the United States Food and Drug Administration. Diabetes test is undertaken through a blood sample test at a diagnostic lab. For diabetes testing, 10 to 11 hours of fasting is required. Fasting blood glucose level measures your blood sugar when you have not eaten in 10 hours. After that, there is oral glucose tolerance to measure blood sugar levels after you consume sugary fluid. Get the test done once a year.

Prevent lung cancer by taking medical tests for smokers
Take medical tests for smokers to know if you have lung cancer or diabetes. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

4. CT scan

CT scans provide detailed cross-sectional images of a person’s lungs and are more sensitive than chest X-rays in detecting early lung cancer, says Dr Sawant. You will be asked to lie down on a table that slides into the CT scanner. The preparation for this exam involves fasting for a few hours. The scan happens in about 10 to 30 minutes. This is an advanced test and should only be done if some changes are indicated in other primary tests.

5. Electrocardiogram

This records the electrical activity of the heart and is used to detect heart disease. In this, electrodes are placed on the patient’s chest, arms, and legs. No special preparation is needed for the test that takes only about 5 to 10 minutes. Smokers should take this test once a year.

6. Vitamin D test

Exposure to active and passive smoking was associated with increased risk of Vitamin D deficiency in participants during a 2022 study published in Environmental Science and Pollution Research. Vitamin D test is a non-fasting blood test that can be done at any diagnostic center. It can be done once a year, says the expert.

These medical tests provide critical information about lung function, the presence of lung diseases such as COPD and lung cancer, and cardiovascular health. Early detection is very important.

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