Smoking and Your Heart
It isn’t exactly a newsflash that smoking is bad for you. Most everyone knows that smoking causes lung cancer. But does everyone know that smoking is just as bad for your heart?
How Does Smoking Affect Your Heart?
If you smoke, even only occasionally, you are hurting just about every part of your body: your lungs, heart, blood vessels, mouth, throat, eyes, bones, reproductive organs, bladder, digestive organs, skin — nothing is unaffected. From the moment you inhale, toxic chemicals are entering your bloodstream and wreaking havoc on every cell of your body. Your heart and lungs are especially vulnerable, as well as your entire circulatory system. In addition to increasing your heart rate, smoking causes atherosclerosis, arrhythmias, high blood pressure and peripheral artery disease.
How Does it Happen?
In addition to containing nicotine, cigarettes also contain carbon monoxide, hydrogen cyanide, and tar. Over time, these chemicals cause the lining of your arteries to deteriorate and allow fatty substances known as plaque to collect on blood vessel walls. When one or more of these coronary arteries is blocked, the result is a heart attack. If the blocked artery is in your arm or leg, it is called peripheral artery disease, which can lead to a stroke. And the longer a person smokes, the greater the chance they’ll wind up with one or more of these outcomes.
What Happens When You Quit?
The difficulty of quitting smoking is well known. The most effective technique, while often a last resort, is simply going cold turkey. Whatever method you choose, here’s how quickly your body will register the change.
Immediately: Blood pressure lowers; circulation improves.
8 Hours: You have half the amount of carbon monoxide and nicotine present in your blood. Blood oxygen levels increase.
24 Hours: Risk of heart attack drops.
48 Hours: Lungs begin to clear of mucus; taste and smell senses improve.
3 Days: You can breathe better and have more energy.
3-9 Months: You can breathe clearly. The worst of the cravings is over. You get sick less often.
1 Year: Risk of heart disease is half what it was when you were a smoker.
The best part is you can stop worrying about what smoking is doing to your health. Quitting won’t be easy. You may have to try several times before you succeed. But understanding what smoking does to your cardiopulmonary system is a great motivator.
P.S. If you’ve read this far, congratulations. You’ve already decided to quit.