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Smoking Effects on the Heart

by Valerie Belew
  • Overview

    According to the American Heart Association, cigarette smoking is the most frequent cause of preventable death in the United States, and a major cause of disability. Much research has linked cigarette smoking to coronary heart disease, which leads to cardiac arrest. Even without other risk factors, cigarette smoking increases the risk of coronary heart disease, but when combined with other factors, the risk is greatly increased.
  • Risk Factors

    Coronary heart disease is caused when a diminished blood flow moves from the coronary arteries to the heart. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that cigarette smokers are two to four times more likely to develop heart disease than the general population, and heart disease is the number one cause of death in humans. The six major coronary heart disease risk factors we can control through lifestyle choices are tobacco smoke, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, physical inactivity, obesity and diabetes. Cigarette smoking directly affects three of the other risk factors, increasing the likelihood of coronary heart disease. Smoking increases blood pressure, decreases the endurance for exercise and increases the likelihood that blood will clot. Such causal relationships compound the risk of cardiac arrest.
  • Smoking & Arteries

    According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cigarette smoking produces toxins in the blood that contribute to atherosclerois, a progressive hardening of the arteries. Atherosclerois occurs when fatty plaque is deposited, and the artery wall becomes scarred and thickened. Cardiac arrest can result when inflammation of the artery wall and the development of blood clots obstruct blood flow.
  • Smoking and Birth Control

    The Mayo Clinic reports that women who smoke and use birth control pills are at greater risk of developing coronary heart disease than those who do not smoke, especially if the woman is older than 35. Women older than 35 who smoke cigarettes and use birth control pills are at extremely high risk of developing heart problems. The Mayo Clinic advises women who are older than 35 to stop smoking before they consider using birth control pills.
  • Cigar and Pipe smokers

    The American Heart Associations reports that cigar and pipe smokers appear to have higher rates of coronary heart disease than non-smokers; however, their rate of heart disease is less than that of cigarette smokers. Researchers say the lower incidence of cardiac disease in cigar and pipe smokers is related to their tendency not to inhale the smoke.
  • Second Hand Smoke

    According to The American Heart Association, environmental tobacco smoke has a strong connection to cardiovascular disease and premature death. The agency reports 22,700-69,600 premature deaths annually attributed to second-hand smoke. The Mayo Clinic reports that second-hand smoke creates the same health hazards as smoking cigarettes due to the presence of toxic chemicals found in the air when other people are smoking. The Surgeon General reported that there is no risk-free level of environmental second-hand smoke, according to the Mayo Clinic.
  • Post Heart Attack Smoking

    According to The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), one half of all heart-attack survivors continue to smoke cigarettes against medical advice after they experience one or more heart attacks. In view of these findings, the best way to avoid coronary heart disease is to never begin smoking cigarettes. NIDA reports that cigarette smoking is an addiction and that cigarette smokers experience all components of the addiction process.

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