Most people associate smoking with breathing problems, a chronic cough and lung cancer. But did you know that smoking is also a major cause of cardiovascular disease?
The more a person smokes, the greater their risk of heart attack or stroke. And the longer they continue to smoke, the more they continue to increase that risk. People who smoke a pack a day have more than twice the risk of heart attack and stroke than a non-smoker.
According to the American Heart Association, cigarette smoking is the No. 1 cause of preventable disease and death in the U.S.
Smoking causes the arteries to build up with fatty substances, a process called atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis causes the healthy lining of arteries to deteriorate, the walls of the arteries to thicken, and plaque and fat block the flow of blood.
- Coronary artery disease is the result of atherosclerosis in the arteries leading to the heart, increasing your risk of heart attack.
- Peripheral artery disease is the result of atherosclerosis in arteries leading to the arms or legs, increasing your risk of stroke.
Cigarettes have multiple poisons, including addictive nicotine, carbon monoxide, "tars," and hydrogen cyanide. There are 4,000 other chemicals of varying toxicity, including 43 known carcinogens.
These poisons not only affect the smoker, but also the people around them- especially children. Secondhand smoke can cause chronic respiratory conditions, cancer, and heart disease. The American Heart Association estimates that each year, about 37,000 to 40,000 people die from heart and blood vessel disease caused by other people's smoke.
There are several reasons to quit smoking, most importantly for your health and that of those around you. Next week, UnityPoint Health- Des Moines will post Quitting Smoking | Part 2: Five Reasons to Quit Today, offering facts and tips to help you reach that goal. It's never too late to quit smoking.