Smoking increases the risk of cardiovascular disease and affects other major organs in the body as well. In India, 35% of people use tobacco and not only increase their own health risk factors but also affect their near and dear ones. By reducing risk factors like smoking, many premature deaths due to cardiovascular problems contracted through excessive smoking can be avoided. On this World No Tobacco Day, Dr Vijai Kumar Ratnavelu, Consultant Pulmonologist, Director and Professor, Pulmonary Medicine and Critical Care, Yashoda Super Specialty Hospital, Hyderabad takes us through the impact of smoking on our heart health.
Smoking and Heart Connect
Smoking results in the inner lining of the arteries or the endothelium getting damaged. The carcinogens and carbon mono-oxide present in cigarette smoke result in the arteries becoming more prone to spasms. In a healthy blood vessel the endothelium constricts and dilates with blood flow. However plaque buildup due to smoking diminishes its ability to dilate properly.
Another consequence of smoking is the narrowing of blood vessels which results in reduced circulation. Smokers may develop peripheral vascular disease and the decreased blood flow in the extremities like arms and legs can cause a host of problems ranging from pain to tissue loss. Abdominal aortic aneurysm is another complication that rises due to the swelling or weakening of the aorta in the abdomen, the main artery of the body.
Cigarette smoking also lowers a person's high density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL) or "good" cholesterol while raising levels of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL) or "bad" cholesterol. At times smokers can also suffer from heart palpitations that can affect their overall quality of life.
Listen to your heart - quit smoking now!
- Make the decision: The first and foremost thing is to make up your mind to quit smoking and then set a quit date. You might want to devise a quit plan since quitting is a journey and not a single event.
- Try Nicotine Replacement Therapy: NRT products are available in several forms like the nicotine patch, gum or lozenge and help deal with nicotine withdrawals. An appropriate form or a mix of different forms can be used depending on the level of addiction. Use this therapy as instructed and follow a complete course of 12 weeks to ensure quitting successfully.
- Break a sweat: Physical exercise not only helps a smoker take his mind off his addiction but also helps him get fit and healthier. Cardio exercise is a great way to develop stamina after quitting. Make this a part of your daily routine, even a simple walk for half an hour can prove to be very useful.
- Avoid triggers: It is advisable to stay away from triggers like drinking alcohol or coffee or any other activity that the smoker associates with a cigarette as this can lead to craving. One should devise strategies to deal with such situations – either avoid them or control them appropriately. The first few weeks are the most important once the psychological cues are gone it becomes easier to quit smoking.
- Seek support: Friends, family, healthcare practitioners or even a helpline can reduce chance of a relapse by patiently providing support and guidance.
*Image courtesy: © Thinkstock photos/ Getty Images
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