Reducing Cardiac Risk: Smoking and cardiovascular disease

Facts about smoking and cardiovascular disease: 
  • Smoking tops the list of primary risk factors for cardiovascular disease, and is responsible for claiming the lives of 430,000 Americans each year. In fact, smoking has been classified as the single most preventable cause of premature death in the United States. 
  • As many as 30 percent of all heart disease deaths in the U.S. each year are attributable to cigarette smoking. 
  • Nine out of ten people with peripheral vascular disease are smokers.
  • Smokers are close to eight times more likely to suffer an aortic aneurysm than non-smokers. 
  • Among people younger than 65, 44 percent of strokes in men and 39 percent in women are caused by cigarette smoking. 
  • Women who smoke and take oral contraceptives are approximately 10 times more likely to develop cardiovascular disease than women who do not.
How does smoking affect the cardiovascular system? 

  • Smoking causes immediate and long-term increases in blood pressure.
  • It causes immediate and long-term increases in heart rate. 
  • It reduces cardiac output and coronary blood flow. 
  • It reduces the amount of oxygen that reaches the body's tissues. 
  • It changes the properties of blood vessels and blood cells, allowing cholesterol and other fatty substances to build up. 
  • It contributes to higher blood pressure and blot clot formation. 
  • It damages blood vessels. 
  • It doubles the risk of ischemic stroke.
In addition, smoking has been associated with depression and psychological distress.

The importance of smoking cessation:

According to the American Heart Association, quitting smoking not only reduces the risk of coronary heart disease, but also reduces the risk of repeat heart attacks and death from heart disease by 50 percent. Research also indicates that smoking cessation is crucial to controlling many other conditions that cause heart attacks, including atherosclerosis, thrombosis, coronary artery disease and cardiac arrhythmias.

Steps to quitting smoking: 
  • Consult your physician to find an appropriate smoking-cessation program in  your area. 
  • Establish a "quit date" – the date by which you will begin a smoke-free life. 
  • Take it one day at a time. 
  • Enlist support. 
  • Find an appropriate substitute for smoking. 
  • Exercise to avoid weight gain.
  • Avoid situations and environments that tempt you to smoke.