It’s Valentine’s Day, a day that makes you think of hearts. And whether your own heart is young or old, not smoking is great for your heart, and quitting smoking can help reduce your cardiovascular risks.
Cigarette smoking is the #1 preventable cause of illness, disability and premature death in the U.S. According to the Centers for Disease Control, smoking is attributed to about 130,000 cardiovascular disease deaths per year. When you smoke it harms more than just your lungs, it harms every organ in your body including your heart and blood vessels. Even being a light smoker or smoking an occasional cigarette causes damage to your heart.
When you smoke, two things happen. First, the oxygen-rich blood that is pumped throughout your body is replaced with carbon monoxide. Second, nicotine in tobacco stimulates your adrenaline production, and increases your heart rate and blood pressure. It doesn’t matter what type of tobacco you use, it all contains nicotine.
Smoking also affects the cholesterol production in your body. The LDL, or bad cholesterol increases, and the HDL, or good cholesterol decreases. Over time, LDL production forms a plaque which can narrow the arteries and cause them to harden and become less elastic. The heart now has to work harder to pump the blood throughout the body. This strain on the heart can cause a heart attack.
Secondhand smoke from burning tobacco (cigarettes or cigars) contains the same chemicals that a smoker inhales, and can harm the people around you by damaging their hearts as well.
But there is good news. Quitting smoking can help your body heal. The American Heart Association says after 20 minutes of not smoking, your blood pressure and heart rate returns to normal. Carbon monoxide levels in your blood return to normal after 12 hours. And your risk of coronary heart disease is decreased by 50% after one year.
Love yourself and the ones you are with. It’s never too late to quit smoking