Most everyone knows that smoking can contribute to heart disease, but do you have any idea exactly how it does? Smoking tobacco products creates an environment in the body that is more conducive to developing chronic disorders. Smokers are more likely to develop clogged arteries from plaque build-up which are fatty deposits that stick to the side of the blood vessels. Cancer and pulmonary diseases are also problems for smokers.
Atherosclerosis is the chief cause of death in smokers. This is the condition where plaque builds up in the arteries causing restricted blood flow to the heart as well as other areas of the body. While many medical studies differ, they all do agree that smoking is the chief cause of heart disease in its many forms, with heart attacks leading as one of the primary indicators.
Smoking's direct link
There are many risk factors for coronary heart disease that can be personally controlled by you and smoking tobacco is one of them. Controlling hypertension, obesity and high cholesterol with physical activity and a good diet are other ways as well. Because cigarette smoking is so widespread and avoidable, even the Surgeon General of the United States has said it is the single leading preventable cause of death in the country.
Even if you are healthy in every other way, cigarette smoking can cause heart disease, although it is more prevalent with other risk factors. Smoking increases your blood pressure and can contribute to hypertension. Smoking decreases oxygen levels in the blood which in turn decreases your forbearance with exercise. The chance of blood clots forming and blocking arteries is increased.
If you are under the age of 50, you are at the most risk for heart disease due to smoking. People in their late 20's to early 30's who have smoked for years have been known to develop heart disease. Women who take contraceptive pills and smoke greatly increase their heart disease risk as well. The good part of cholesterol, the HDL, lowers while the bad part, LDL, is higher too.
Smoking is also directly linked to peripheral artery disease. The arteries that run to the different parts of the body like the brain can be affected causing stroke just as much as the arteries to the heart can be linked to heart attacks, all because smoking can help clog those arteries.
It is important to note that it is not just cigarette smokers that are at risk of heart disease. People who smoke cigars or even pipes are at risk too, although not as high. This mainly due to the fact they do not inhale as much tobacco smoke as cigarette smokers. People exposed to secondhand smoke frequently are at risk as are those who do illegal drugs like marijuana and crack.
Kicking the habit
You can effectively decrease your risk of heart disease in half within the first year of quitting smoking. For each year you continue to abstain from smoking, your heart disease risk decreases until it is that of any other non-smoker.