1.34 Tobacco Use, Second Hand Smoke and Heart Disease

In this HeartStrong.com video/article we will examine the harmful cardiovascular effects of tobacco use.

It is common knowledge that smoking tobacco products is not only harmful to cardiovascular health, but poses a significant risk of many cancers and lung disease. Smoking tobacco has been shown to at least double heart attack risk in many studies and it is estimated that 10% of heart disease deaths can be attributed to smoking. Chewing tobacco does essentially the same.

The chemicals absorbed into the bloodstream from smoking cause “oxidative stress” on many areas of the body and ultimately causes damage to the endothelium, the protective lining of the arteries. Oxidized LDL cholesterol can then deposit in the wall of the arteries eventually leading to heart disease and heart attack. There is no “safe level” of smoking tobacco. Nicotine is the addictive chemical and it does have some negative health effects, but minimal compared to actually smoking a tobacco product. Thus, temporary nicotine replacement therapy (gum, patches etc…) is considered safe and can be quite effective to help people stop smoking.

While research does show cutting down on the amount smoke does lower heart disease risk when compared to more heavy smokers, even small amounts of cigarette smoking had major negative cardiovascular effects. Thus, smoking should be completely avoided.

Even second hand smoke exposure increases heart disease risk significantly. The CDC states that there is no safe level of second hand smoke exposure and they estimate that 34,000 deaths/year from heart disease in the US can be directly attributed to second hand smoke.

How to Stop Smoking

It has been well shown that abruptly stopping smoking “cold turkey” is more successful than gradual weaning down. Find the motivation, look up online resources. Set a date you will stop smoking. Tell your family and friends that you are doing this and you could use their support. Then just do it!

Resources to Help You Stop Smoking

American Cancer Society

Call a Free Tobacco Quit Line

National Institute of Health

While somewhat brutal, simply scaring yourself about the effects of smoking can work quite well to help you stop. Here are some commercials which are graphic. Watch at your own risk: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

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