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Smoking and Heart Disease
- Smoking can dramatically increase your risk factors for heart disease
- HDL cholesterol transports excess cholesterol through our bodies
- Stopping smoking will improve blood circulation and help decrease your risk of blood clots and coronary heart disease
The campaigns to encourage people to stop smoking have done a lot of good over the years. Smoking levels in the United States continue to decrease. While those campaigns have done a good job showing the connection between smoking and lung cancer, they have not done as well making the connection between smoking and heart disease. However, smoking can dramatically increase your risk of developing heart disease which is one of the leading causes of death for men and women in the U. S. and other parts of the Western world.
Establishing the Connection
One-fifth of all heart disease deaths annually are a result of smoking. Most smokers, however, want to know how puffing on a cigarette can lead to heart problems. Research over the last few decades has given the answer.
Most of us know that cigarettes contains more than tobacco. In the average cigarette, you’ll find more than 4,000 chemicals, and these chemicals work in different ways in the body. Many of the effects are directly going to contribute to your risk of developing coronary heart disease. For example, one reason for the connection between smoking and heart disease is lowered HDL levels.
HDL cholesterol (high density lipoproteins) helps transport excess cholesterol out of our bodies instead of into our arteries. Medical research has shown that high levels of HDL in the blood reduce our risk of heart disease. However, smoking actually causes those HDL levels to be reduced. Just by quitting smoking, you can actually increase your HDL level by up to 10% which is pretty significant.
Other Reasons for the Connection
More examples of the connection between smoking and heart disease also exist. Smoking has been shown to make people less capable of doing exercise, partially because of reduced lung capacity. However, exercise is one of the best ways to protect ourselves from heart disease. Regular exercise can increase our HDL levels, lower our body weight, and improve blood circulation which can boost our overall heart health tremendously.
Another reason why smoking and heart disease are linked is that smoking also increases the risk of blood clot formation. This is one reason why women taking birth control pills are advised not to smoke: the combination can lead to deadly blood clots. If you already have atherosclerosis (the build-up of plaque on the artery walls), a blood clot can literally be life-ending because it can easily block the flow of blood to your brain or heart causing a stroke or heart attack.
Cigarette smoking increases the risk of coronary heart disease by itself. When it acts with other factors, it greatly increases risk. Smoking increases blood pressure, decreases exercise tolerance and increases the tendency for blood to clot. Smoking also increases the risk of recurrent coronary heart disease after bypass surgery.
Are All Types of Smoking Dangerous?
The answer is that all types of smoking have been found to increase heart disease risks. However, the biggest risk of smoking and heart disease comes from cigarettes, not cigars or pipes. Sadly, secondhand smoke also seems to increase this risk, especially when exposure is long-term.
The information supplied in this article is not to be considered as medical advice and is for educational purposes only.
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