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The Cardiovascular Effects of Smoking

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Smoking is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease. It increases the risk of developing coronary heart disease, stroke and peripheral artery disease, as well as other circulatory problems. This post will discuss how smoking can cause these problems and what you can do to protect your cardiovascular health.


How Smoking Causes Cardiovascular Problems

Smoking has many direct effects on the cardiovascular system that increase the risk of heart attack and stroke.  Cigarette smoke contains toxins that damage arteries and veins, which can lead to the hardening of the arteries or atherosclerosis, and restricted blood flow in the body. This makes it difficult for oxygen-rich blood to reach vital organs such as the heart and brain, increasing the risk of a heart attack or stroke.


Smoking also increases blood pressure and heart rate, which can strain the cardiovascular system. Finally, smoking affects clotting factors in the blood, making it more likely that a clot will form in an artery or vein leading to a blockage or rupture. All of these effects contribute to an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease among smokers compared with non-smokers.


Reducing Risk Through Quitting Smoking

The good news is that quitting smoking can help reduce this risk significantly.  Studies have shown that within two years after quitting smoking, an individual’s risk of stroke is reduced by 50%, while their risk for a heart attack decreases by 35%. These benefits are even greater if an individual stops smoking before the age 45 – their overall death rate from any cause declines by 50%.  Additionally, quitting smoking can improve circulation throughout your body, and reduce inflammation associated with smoking-related diseases like COPD or emphysema.


The evidence is clear – smoking has serious negative effects on cardiovascular health and significantly increases your risk for developing various diseases such as coronary heart disease, stroke, and peripheral artery disease.  Quitting smoking is one of the best things you can do to reduce your risk for these conditions and improve your overall health. For patients who are looking to quit smoking, there are a variety of resources available such as support groups or nicotine replacement therapies like patches or gum to help you make this important lifestyle change. Taking steps to protect your cardiovascular health now could save you pain down the road!

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