It’s September and it’s a good time to take notice of all the observances slated for this month. If you enjoy eating, September is your month as fall harvest brings us national observances for Fruits & Veggies, Chili Peppers, Apples, Potatoes, Mushrooms, Papaya and Rice. Need some meat for that meal? No problem because September also celebrates Prime Beef Month.
Celebrating with too much prime beef may raise your cholesterol levels, so you may want to have your cholesterol checked as it is also Cholesterol Education Month. According to the CDC, “cholesterol, produced by the liver, is a waxy, fat-like substance which is a source of energy for the body. It is also found in many foods. Three types are measured in your body: HDL, LDL and Triglycerides. If you have a difficult time remembering which is the good, the bad and the ugly, think of HDL cholesterol as the “high” or “happy” measurement. You want this number to be 35mg/dL or higher. The LDL is the “lousy” or “bad” cholesterol, and you want this number to be less than 110mg/dl. Your triglycerides are a type of fat found in the blood. When you eat carbohydrates and fats and don’t burn enough calories, your body stores these, giving you a high triglyceride level. High triglycerides can contribute to a “thickening of the artery walls, which could cause a stroke, heart attack and heart disease.” If your triglycerides are extremely high, it can also cause acute pancreatitis. You can check this chart to see what your numbers mean. So what does cholesterol have to do with tobacco?
Smoking reduces your good cholesterol or HDL levels, and affects the way the fat-like substances in your blood are metabolized, allowing fats to circulate through the body. Smoking also injures the lining of blood vessels allowing these fats to be deposited along the walls, creating plaque and narrowing the vessels which is called atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries. Smokeless tobacco users also seem to have higher total cholesterol levels as compared to non-tobacco users. Studies have found that if you quit using tobacco, the levels of good cholesterol (HDL) increase. The good news is that it is also National Chicken Month, so swap out some beef for chicken or fish to help decrease your cholesterol levels.
September is Infant Mortality Awareness Month and this is a good time to learn how smoking can affect you and your baby. Even breathing other people’s smoke can cause health problems for your baby. Smoking during pregnancy can cause your baby to be born too soon or to be underweight at birth meaning a sicker baby and a longer hospital stay. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome or SIDS is a risk fact for babies whose mothers smoke or who live with others who smoke. Check the link above for other mortality risk factors for your baby.
It’s still warm in south Florida, but it’s starting to cool off in other areas of the country. While you are trying to stay healthy by eating right, protect yourself from colds, and don’t forget about a flu shot as the Cold and Flu Campaign also starts in September. Did you know that a smoker is more likely than a nonsmoker to have upper and lower respiratory tract infects, perhaps because smoking suppresses immune function.” And all that coughing will get worse if you smoke because smoking irritates and damages your lungs.
September also brings us AKC Responsible Dog Ownership Month, and as a responsible owner, you would never smoke near your dog, would you? Those toxins in secondhand smoke also affect your pet and can produce nasal tumors and cancer of the sinus in long-nosed breeds and higher lung cancer rates in dogs with short to medium noses.
And finally, September 29th is World Heart Day. Eating healthy, exercising, and getting enough sleep isn’t enough to protect your heart if you are still using tobacco. Nicotine in tobacco increases your “heart rate, tightens major arteries, and can cause an irregular heart rhythm,” which makes your heart work harder. Smoking raises your blood pressure, and the chemicals in cigarette smoke “lead to buildup of fatty plaque in the arteries” which could injure vessel walls. This also affects your cholesterol levels (see information above). Cigars aren’t any safer than cigarettes. Smokeless tobacco isn’t a safe alternative as it contains 3x the nicotine of a cigarette and increases your heart rate as well. Others living with a smoker are also at risk for heart disease by breathing in all the secondhand smoke. It’s never too late to quit smoking and you can see benefits within 20 minutes. Your heart rate and blood pressure drop, your circulation improves and one year after quitting, your “excess risk of coronary heart disease is half that of a continuing smoker.”