How Smoking Hurts Your Heart
In the US alone, up to 2,200 people die of heart disease. Many factors can wreak havoc on the cardiovascular system; having a sedentary lifestyle, unhealthy eating habits, and experiencing chronic stress can all do a number on your heart. Smoking is also considered a leading cause of heart disease.
In fact, medical experts say that quitting smoking is a huge help to lowering your risk of heart disease. Permanently cutting tobacco and nicotine out from your life is one of the best ways to ensure that your heart can keep you alive for many, many years to come.
If you need just a little more convincing to put down that cigarette, read on about how smoking affects your cardiovascular system.
⦁ Smoking boosts blood pressure levels.
Many studies have looked into the link between smoking habits and high blood pressure levels. Results from a British study indicate that heavy smokers are more likely to have high blood pressure, while those have less than nine cigarettes daily enjoyed a significantly lower risk of high blood pressure. The correlation is mostly due to the nicotine in cigarette smoke; nicotine has been known to temporarily increase blood pressure during smoking and in the minutes after it.
Having high blood pressure levels is very stressful for your heart. It makes your heart work harder to pump blood throughout your body. Overworking your heart is something you don’t want to do, as the heart can get weaker when it is overworked for long periods of time. If quitting smoking is not doable right now, you’ll be doing your heart a big favor by cutting back on the number of cigarettes you smoke daily.
⦁ Smoking makes you more prone to atherosclerosis.
With each puff you take of that cigarette, chemicals in tobacco and tobacco smoke enter your body and harm your blood cells and blood vessels. The damage tobacco smoke causes on your heart increases your risk for atherosclerosis, which is a disease that occurs when waxy deposits called plaque accumulate inside your arteries.
When you have atherosclerosis, plaque deposits affect the structure of your arteries so they become much narrower. That means your heart has to work harder to get blood flowing through your arteries. In turn, other parts of your body might not get the oxygen-rich blood they need. In some cases, the plaque deposits can even rupture and combine with blood clots, causing heart attacks.
⦁ Smoking causes inflammation throughout your body.
There have also been many studies concerning the inflammatory effects of smoking on the cardiovascular system. Researchers have discovered that chronic smoking contributes to inflammation in the respiratory system and have found evidence supporting the link between smoking and cardiovascular inflammation. Smoking may cause inflammation that puts you at greater risk of cardiovascular disease; in fact, women who quit smoking are discovered to have lower levels of inflammation markers linked to heart disease.
⦁ Smoking contributes to peripheral arterial disease.
Medical experts have found that smoking is one of the major contributors to the development of peripheral arterial disease or PAD. Smoking is such a big risk factor for PAD that even former smokers (and chronic smokers alike) continue to be up to 4 times more prone to developing PAD compared to non-smokers. Symptoms of PAD include difficulty with climbing stairs or walking and heaviness in the legs.
Peripheral arterial disease occurs when plaque buildup causes veins to become narrow, which obstructs blood flow. Parts of the body dependent on oxygen-rich blood might not get the blood and oxygen they need to function properly, which may cause gangrene and tissue death. PAD is said to have greater effects on the legs and feet, although arteries that carry blood to your head and your kidneys can also be affected. In some cases, sustained loss of blood flow caused by PAD results in the need to amputate affected parts of the body.
⦁ Smoking has increased cardiovascular risks for women.
Female smokers who use birth control pills have been found to be at greater risk of cardiovascular disease. The combination of the hormones in birth control pills and the toxins in tobacco smoke may cause overall greater damage to the heart.
Age, estrogen levels in pills, and the number of cigarettes smoked also seem to be a factor; studies have found that the older a woman is, the higher the estrogen levels in the pills she takes, and the more she smokes, the greater her risk of cardiovascular disease is. Studies have also found that female smokers who are over 35 years of age and who regularly take birth control pills are particularly susceptible to heart disease.
If you want to steer clear of heart disease, quitting smoking is just the beginning. Getting regular exercise and having a healthy diet can also ensure that your life is not cut short by cardiovascular disease. Incorporate fruits, vegetables, and whole grains into your meals and find an activity that gets you moving daily. You’ll also want to avoid being stressed out, so you don’t overwork your heart as it pumps blood to the rest of your body.