Why Quitting Smoking is Good for Your Heart
We all know that smoking isn't good for our heart, don't we? In fact, it's responsible for more than 440,000 annual deaths each year in the US.
It's such a widespread and significant risk factor that the Surgeon General has called it, "The leading preventable cause of disease and deaths in the United States."
So, what are the dangers of smoking?
Smoking increases your risk of coronary heart disease, but it also acts with other factors to greatly increase your risk of complications.
For example smoking may lead to:
- Fatty build up in arteries - atherosclerosis
- Increased blood pressure
- Increased the tendency for blood clots
- Decreased HDL levels
- Increased risk of recurrent coronary heart disease after bypass surgery
- Women who smoke and use oral contraceptives have a greater risk of coronary heart disease and stroke
- When combined with a family history of heart disease also seems to greatly increase the risk
- Several types of cancer
- Various lung problems
- Decreased exercise tolerance
Did you know that second hand smoke contains around 4,000 toxic chemicals, including 69 chemicals that cause cancer?
You may think that opening a window will help, but second hand smoke can still be present in a room after two and a half hours. Think of what that is doing to your health, and the health of your children and other family members!
However, the good news is that once you quit smoking your health begins to improve immediately. And, most of the damage done by years of smoking can be reversed to some degree, depending on the resulting conditions.
The main message here is this:
It's never too early to stop, and it's never too late to stop!
Benefits of stopping smoking
As soon as you stop smoking your body will begin to benefit:
- Within 20 minutes, your blood pressure and pulse rate will return to normal.
- Circulation improves in your hands and feet, making them warmer.
- Within eight hours of stopping, the oxygen level in your blood will rise to normal and your carbon monoxide level will fall.
- Within 24 hours, the chance of you suffering a heart attack and stroke begins to fall.
- Within 72 hours, you can hold more air in your lungs. Breathing becomes easier. Your energy levels increase.
- Within days, your blood is less likely to clot.
- Within five years, the risk of a heart attack falls to about half that of a smoker.
- Within 10 years, you will have about the same risk of heart disease as someone who has never smoked.
Do you want to quit smoking?
While it's true to say that quitting smoking isn't always easy, you can increase your chances of success by using more than one strategy at a time. For example:
- Write down at least 5 reasons why you want to stop smoking and read this many times throughout the day
- Use medication to reduce nicotine cravings, such as patches and gum
- Join a support group, or go for individual counselling
- Keep yourself busy, and avoid trigger situations if possible
If you would like to stop smoking make an appointment immediately to discuss this with your doctor, who will be able to go through your options for quitting.
For more information check out the American Heart Associations, "How Can I Quit Smoking?"