According to the American Heart Association, more than half of all smoking-related deaths are from cardiovascular diseases such as heart attack or stroke. And a person's risk of cardiovascular disease greatly increases with the number of cigarettes he or she smokes. Smokers continue to increase their risk of disease the longer they smoke. 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, and peripheral vascular disease.
Four years ago, Emmetsburg, Iowa, insurance agent Jim Wirtz, now 65, had triple bypass surgery. Just 10 days later, he was back at the office. Three weeks after that, he received a clean bill of health from his doctors, who said he could do any physical activity -- except shovel heavy snow.
Wirtz took their advice, and he and his wife resumed having intercourse. "Stay in the game, whether it's sex or work," he says. "My own philosophy is, you just better live."
Wirtz is doing what doctors say most...
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.
How Does Smoking Increase Heart Disease Risk?
Nicotine in cigarettes speeds up the heart and also narrows the arteries, making it harder for enough blood to get to the heart.
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.
How Should I Prepare to Quit 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 or prescription medications that may help you quit.
Join a smoking cessation support group or program. Call your local chapter of the American Lung Association.