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?
Almost 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 coronary artery disease.
A person's risk of heart disease and heart attack greatly increases with the number of cigarettes he or she smokes. People who smoke have a two to four times higher chance of having heart disease. And smokers continue to increase their risk of heart attack the longer they smoke. Women who smoke and also take birth control pills increase several times their risk of heart attack, stroke, 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 nearly 70,000 nonsmokers die from heart disease each year as a result of exposure to environmental tobacco smoke.
The nicotine present in smoke causes heart disease by:
Decreasing oxygen to the heart.
Increasing blood pressure and heart rate.
Increasing blood clotting.
Damaging to cells that line coronary arteries and other blood vessels.
How Can Quitting Smoking Be Helpful?
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 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.
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 you 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 smoking. 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 cigarettes 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 medication or about using nicotine gum or patches. Some people find these aids helpful.
Join a smoking cessation support group or program. Call your local chapter of the American Lung Association.