Although most people know that cigarette smoking can cause lung cancer, they often don’t realize that cigarettes are a major risk factor for heart disease. Most healthcare providers agree that the first step in fighting heart problems is to quit smoking.
Smoking interferes with many vital functions of the body by:
- raising blood pressure,
- lowering the oxygen supply,
- causing a risk of blood clots
- and damaging the arteries.
The nicotine in cigarette smoke acts as a stimulant, making the heart beat faster and raising the blood pressure. At the same time, nicotine causes the arteries to shrink up, which interferes with the flow of blood in the body and makes the heart work even harder.
Smoking also releases carbon monoxide into the body which lowers the amount of oxygen in the blood. As a result, the heart has to work harder to supply the oxygen the body needs. Under these conditions, normal activities can make a person breathless and strenuous activity may become impossible.
Smoking also makes the blood thick and sticky, so it’s easier for clots to form in the arteries, leading to heart attacks or other life-threatening situations.
Smoking can also severely damage blood vessels by causing fatty deposits to build up in the walls of the arteries. Clogged arteries make it difficult for the heart to get the oxygen it needs, putting a severe strain on the heart. In severely narrowed arteries, a clot can totally cut off the circulation, a condition that can be fatal.
The clear message is that smoking seriously increases a person’s risk for heart attacks, strokes, circulatory diseases in the extremities, chronic lung diseases and other forms of heart disease. But this risk factor can be completely controlled. When you stop smoking, you immediately improve your health and your chances for a longer life.
If you’ve tried to quit and can’t, ask your healthcare provider for advice on safe and effective methods or for a referral to a local program that may suit your medical and personal needs.