Throughout the month of February, we will be sharing important heart health tips from the Arnot Health Heart and Vascular Institute, an advanced support team that provides high-quality, compassionate care in state-of-the-art facilities. This week, we’re talking about the effects of smoking – and quitting – on your heart and body.
According to the American Heart Association, smoking by itself increases the risk of coronary heart disease. It decreases your tolerance for physical activity and increases the tendency for blood to clot; a severely dangerous combination.
“Smoking can stress the entire body,” said Maureen Tuite, Clinical Director and Nurse Practitioner at the Arnot Health Heart and Vascular Institute. “Inflammation in the lungs makes it harder to breathe, and increased blood pressure and high cholesterol leads to heart disease.”
Many people are familiar with the dangers and side effects of smoking, but the inverse benefits of quitting can be just as powerful. Your lungs can begin to heal themselves right away, and your whole body can recover over time. “After you quit for a year or two, you can help reverse some of the damage to your heart,” said Maureen. The statistics below from the American Heart Association highlight the benefits of quitting:
- After 20 Minutes: your blood pressure and heart rate recover from the cigarette-induced spike
- After 12 Hours: the carbon monoxide levels in your blood return to normal
- After 2-6 Weeks: your circulation and lung function begin to improve
- After 1-9 Months: clear and deeper breathing gradually returns
- After 1 Year: your risk of coronary heart disease is reduced by 50 percent
- After 5 Years: your risk of stroke is similar to that of someone who has never smoked
Quitting is very difficult because tobacco is so highly addictive, but success is more likely with aids like gum, patches, or prescription medications. The New York State Quit Line offers free access to replacement products like these. One of the most important factors, of course, is never starting in the first place.
According to Maureen Tuite, “We work hard in the community to keep adolescents from picking up the habit. While tobacco companies spend exorbitant amounts of money advertising to young people, it’s imperative to keep providing education on the harmful realities of smoking.” As other products like e-cigarettes emerge, it’s important to understand the dangers of those, as well. Manufacturers are not required to release the ingredients of e-cigarettes, and they have not been around long enough to understand their long-term effects.
More research and resources are available from the American Heart Association, and the most important thing to remember is that it’s never too late to quit.
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