Smoking your heart away?

Smoking is a major cause of heart attack, stroke and peripheral arterial disease. Nearly 40% of all people who die from smoking tobacco do so due to heart and blood vessel disease. A person’s risk of heart attack greatly increases with the number of cigarettes he or she smokes. Smokers continue to increase their risk of heart attack the longer they smoke. People who smoke a packet of cigarettes a day expose themselves to more than twice the risk of a heart attack than non-smokers.

How does smoking damage your heart?

• The heart relies on a generous supply of oxygen and nutrients from the two coronary arteries and their branches. Over the years, fatty deposits (atheroma) can build up inside one or more of the coronary arteries. This narrowing of the arteries reduces the flow of blood to the heart and increases the risk of angina, a heart attack and stroke.

• The carbon monoxide in tobacco smoke reduces the amount of oxygen in your blood. This means your heart has to pump harder to supply the body with the oxygen it needs.

• The nicotine in cigarettes stimulates your body to produce adrenaline, which makes your heart beat faster and raises your blood pressure, making your heart work harder.your blood is more likely to clot, which increases your risk of having a heart attack or stroke. A heart attack occurs when a blood clot forms at a narrowed point in a coronary artery and suddenly blocks the flow of blood to the heart. If the artery remains blocked, the lack of blood supply permanently damages the area of heart muscle supplied by that artery. The severity of the heart attack depends on how much heart muscle is permanently damaged.

• Smoking also speeds up atherosclerosis and damages other blood vessels. This ‘peripheral arterial disease’ can reduce blood circulation, particularly to your hands and feet, and result in blood clots, gangrene and even amputation.

Other health concerns related to smoking:

  • Decreased exercise tolerance.
  • Decreased hdl (good) cholesterol.
  • Increased risk of developing lung cancer, throat cancer, chronic asthma, chronic bronchitis and emphysema.
  • Increased risk of developing diabetes.
  • Increased risk of developing gum disease and ulcers.
  • Increased risk of becoming sick.

Second-hand smoke

When non-smokers breathe in second-hand smoke -also known as passive smoking - it can be harmful. Research shows that exposure to second hand tobacco smoke is a cause of heart disease in non-smokers, which means you could be harming the health of your children, partner and friends.

Quit smoking and improve your health

Within eight hours of quitting smoking:

Blood oxygen levels increase and the chances of a heart attack start to fall.

Within one day of quitting smoking:

• Your heart rate slows down and your blood pressure drops slightly.

• Carbon monoxide is out of your blood.

• Oxygen levels in your blood rise.

Within two to three months:

• Your ability to smell and taste improves.

• Your lungs regain the ability to clean themselves, so you can cough up mucus.

• The blood flow to your hands and feet improves, so they won’t get so cold.

Within one year:

Your risk of heart attack is greatly reduced.

Within two to six years:

Your risk of developing coronary heart disease returns to a similar level as that of a non-smoker.

To stop smoking has huge benefits and it’s never too late to give up. There's no ideal way to quit smoking that works for everyone. To quit, you must be ready - both emotionally and mentally. You must also want to quit smoking. Contact your nearest Intercare Medical & Dental Centre for help.

Sources: www.bhf.org.uk; http://my.clevelandclinic.org/heart/prevention/risk-factors/smoking; http://www.world-heart-federation.org; http://www.webmd.com/smoking-cessation

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