Smoking and the Heart
In “The Relationship between COPD and Heart Problems,” we discussed how shortness of breath is associated with both chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and heart disease, and how to tell which disease is causing this symptom. But what about another link between the two diseases? What about cigarettes, smoking, and the heart?
We already know that cigarette smoking is most commonly associated with lung disease and lung cancers, but many people don’t take into account the damage they’ve done to their heart from years of smoking. Let’s take a closer look at smoking and the heart.
How Does Smoking Cigarettes Affect the Heart?
Smoking is detrimental to essentially every organ in your body. This includes your lungs, eyes, mouth, reproductive organs, bones, bladder, digestive muscles, blood vessels and heart. Specific to the heart, smoking can cause a condition called atherosclerosis. This is a disease that occurs when plaque builds up in the arteries causing them to harden and become narrowed. As a result, the flow of blood becomes restricted on its route to other organs in the body. When left untreated, atherosclerosis can cause coronary heart disease, which can lead to heart attack, heart failure, stroke and death.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), cigarette smoking is responsible for 1 in 5 deaths in the United States each year. It is also the main preventable cause of death and illness in the country.
- You have control of your life, and millions of people quit each year. Be part of the positive statistic.
- Secondhand smoke is killing the people around you. If you’re not going to quit for yourself, do it for your friends and family.
- Ninety percent of lung cancer is caused by smoking.
- Since 1965, more than 45 percent of adults who have ever smoked quit.
- Smokers die approximately 13 to 14 years earlier than nonsmokers.
- You only get one life and one body, don’t ruin or cut it short.
- When you smoke you inhale 4,000 chemical components, 250 of which are killing you.
- These components include tar, formaldehyde, cadmium, arsenic and acrolein, a gas linked to lung cancer.
How to Quit?
Start your stop smoking plan with START, an outline from helpguide.org.
S = Set a quit date.
Choose a date within the next 2 weeks, so you have enough time to prepare without losing your motivation to quit. If you mainly smoke at work, quit on the weekend, so you have a few days to adjust to the change.
T = Tell family, friends and co-workers that you plan to quit.
Let your friends and family in on your plan to quit smoking and tell them you need their support and encouragement to stop. Look for a quit buddy who wants to stop smoking as well. You can help each other get through the rough times.
A = Anticipate and plan for the challenges you’ll face while quitting.
Most people who begin smoking again do so within the first 3 months. You can help yourself make it through by preparing ahead for common challenges, such as nicotine withdrawal and cigarette cravings.
R = Remove cigarettes and other tobacco products from your home, car and work.
Throw away all of your cigarettes (no emergency pack!), lighters, ashtrays and matches. Wash your clothes and freshen up anything that smells like smoke. Shampoo your car, clean your drapes and carpet and steam your furniture.
T = Talk to your doctor about getting help to quit.
Your doctor can prescribe medication to help with withdrawal and suggest other alternatives. If you can’t see a doctor, you can get many products over the counter at your local pharmacy or grocery store, including the nicotine patch, lozenges and gum.
If you still need help quitting smoking there are numerous organizations that can help you. Check out some of these resources to learn more about how to quit.