Smoking and Heart Disease
Although many people know of the risk between smoking and lung disease, there is less awareness of the connection between smoking and heart diseases. In the United States, coronary heart disease is the leading cause of death and it is estimated that 20% of heart disease cases are directly related to smoking. Cigarettes are therefore a chief cause of coronary heart disease.
The nicotine in cigarettes has several negative effects on the body. Nicotine raises the heartbeat rate and the blood pressure. It damages the cells that line the blood vessels of the heart and other parts of the body. Nicotine also causes the hardening of the arteries through fatty plaques that deposit in the artery walls. This condition is known as arthrosclerosis and can occur in both smokers and nonsmokers.
Cigarettes also raise the risk of getting a stroke. Strokes are considered a cardiovascular disease because they involve serious impairments of the heart and blood system.
Another link between smoking and heart disease is the increased risk of blood clots which restricts the blood flow and can lead to heart attacks. Nicotine can cause inflammations in the artery walls and has been linked to sudden cardiac arrest and heart palpitations.
Heart diseases caused by smoking may further escalate into congestive heart failure. Contrary to some widespread opinions, low nicotine or low tar cigarettes do not reduce the risk of contracting heart disease.
A byproduct of cigarettes is carbon monoxide and studies identified it as another causative factor of heart disease. Carbon monoxide raises the levels of white blood cells and cholesterol which in both cases increases the risk of cardiac diseases. It also weakens the ability of the blood to transport oxygen in the body thereby raising the risk of a heart attack.
The amount of smoking also increases the risk of contracting heart diseases. People who smoke a pack of cigarettes daily have a higher risk than mild smokers. The risk also increases the longer you continue smoking.
A scientific study has shown that smoking and heart disease risk tends to increase in the winter months. This is believed to be related to higher heart rates and blood pressure during cold weather, which is worse among smokers.
With women, it is believed that the combination of smoking and the use of birth control pills increases one’s risk of having a heart attack. Also with women, smoking and heart disease cases are almost as high as those of lung cancer.
Secondhand smoke also affects non-smokers beyond polluting the surroundings. Secondhand smoke can cause respiratory illnesses as well as heart diseases. About 35,000 nonsmokers are estimated to die each year due to exposure to cigarette smoke.
According to researchers if you quit smoking you can considerably reduce your risk of getting heart disease and carbon monoxide-related cardiac aliments. Cessation of smoking improves the blood’s ability to transport oxygen and it lowers the levels of LDL (‘bad’) cholesterol while raising the level of HDL (‘good’) cholesterol. Even reducing the amount of cigarettes smoked can bring these health advantages within a few months.