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Smoking and Heart Disease

Smoking and heart disease? Most people associate cigarette smoking with breathing problems and lung cancer. But did you know that smoking is also a major cause of heart disease for men and women?

About 20% of all deaths from heart disease in the U.S. are directly related to cigarette smoking. That's because smoking is a major cause of heart attack.

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A person's risk of heart attack greatly increases with the number of cigarettes he or she smokes. Smokers continue to increase their risk of heart attack the longer they smoke as well. People who smoke a pack of cigarettes a day have more than twice the risk of heart attack than non-smokers. Women who smoke and also take birth control pills increase several times their risk of heart attack, stroke, blood clots, and peripheral vascular disease.

Cigarette smoke not only affects smokers. When you smoke, the people around you are also at risk for developing health problems, especially children. Environmental tobacco smoke (also called passive smoke or secondhand smoke) affects people who are frequently around smokers. Secondhand smoke can cause chronic respiratory conditions, cancer, and heart disease. It is estimated that around 35,000 nonsmokers die from heart disease each year as a result of exposure to environmental tobacco smoke.

How Does Smoking Increase Heart Disease Risk?

The nicotine present in cigarettes causes:

  • Decreased oxygen to the heart.
  • Increased blood pressure and heart rate.
  • Increase in blood clotting.
  • Damage to cells that line coronary arteries and other blood vessels.

How Can Quitting Smoking Help My Heart and Lifestyle?

Now that you know how smoking can be harmful to your health and the health of those around you, here are some ways quitting can be helpful. If you quit smoking, you will:

  • Prolong your life.
  • Reduce your risk of disease (including heart disease, heart attack, high blood pressure, lung cancer, throat cancer, emphysema, ulcers, gum disease, and other conditions).
  • Feel healthier. After quitting, you won't cough as much, you'll have fewer sore throats, and you will increase your stamina.
  • Look better. Quitting can help you prevent face wrinkles, get rid of stained teeth, and improve your skin.
  • Improve your sense of taste and smell.
  • Save money.

How To Quit Smoking

There's no one way to quit smoking that works for everyone. To quit, you must be ready both emotionally and mentally. You must also want to quit smoking for yourself, and not to please your friends or family. It helps to plan ahead. This guide may help get your started.

What Should I Do First to Stop Smoking?

Pick a date to stop smoking and then stick to it.

Write down your reasons for quitting. Read over the list every day, before and after you quit. Here are some tips to think about.

  • Write down when you smoke, why you smoke, and what you are doing when you smoke. You will learn what triggers you to smoke.
  • Stop smoking in certain situations (such as during your work break or after dinner) before actually quitting.
  • Make a list of activities you can do instead of smoking. Be ready to do something else when you want to smoke.
  • Ask your doctor about using nicotine gum or patches. Some people find these aids helpful. There are also drugs to help you quit smoking, such as Chantix and Wellbutrin.
  • Join a smoking cessation support group or program. Call your local chapter of the American Lung Association to find one.

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