Cigarette smoking is the leading preventable cause of disease and deaths. Look at the risk factors of chronic diseases, and you will find a constant culprit, smoking. You might think that smoking harms only the lungs, but unfortunately, over 4000 chemicals present in the cigarette smoke do not restrict themselves only to the lungs, but get absorbed into the blood and affect the whole body. Not only does smoking increase the risk of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular diseases and diabetes, these diseases cause much more trouble in people who smoke.
How does smoking increase the risk of heart disease and stroke?
By itself, cigarette smoking increases the risk of coronary heart disease. Smoking increases the build-up of fatty substances in the blood vessels, a process called atherosclerosis. This build-up slowly increases in size to narrow the blood vessels further, reducing the blood flow. When the blood flow to the heart is markedly lowered or stopped altogether, a heart attack occurs. Another possibility is stroke, which occurs due to the hindrance of blood flow to the brain. Another troublesome fact is that while smoking itself increases the risk of heart disease directly, it also increases the chances of other heart risk factors such as hypertension (high blood pressure). Smoking decreases exercise tolerance and increases the tendency for blood to clot. In people who have undergone a bypass surgery, smoking further increases the risk of recurrent coronary heart disease.
When smoking is combined with other heart risk factors like high blood pressure, the risk is further increased. In women who use oral contraceptive pills, the risk of heart diseases as well as stroke increases manifold if they smoke. Similarly, the risk of heart disease is much higher with smoking for someone who had a family history of heart problems. Smoking in younger age is riskier. The risk of health problems with smoking is more among people younger than 50 years of age.
Apart from the heart and brain, the smoking induced atherosclerosis can also interrupt the blood flow to other parts of the body, such as arms, and feet, resulting in a condition called peripheral artery disease. The condition can get serious to an extent that removal of infected limbs may be required.
Can passive smoke also cause heart disease?
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American heart Association. Smoking & Cardiovascular Disease (Heart Disease). Available at: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/QuitSmoking/QuittingResources/Smoking-Cardiovascular-Disease_UCM_305187_Article.jsp#.WoZof1RubDc
CDC. Smoking and cardiovascular disease. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/sgr/50th-anniversary/pdfs/fs_smoking_CVD_508.pdf
How Tobacco Smoke Causes Disease: The Biology and Behavioral Basis for Smoking-Attributable Disease: A Report of the Surgeon General. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK53012/
Trends in Coronary Heart Disease Epidemiology in India, Rajeev Gupta et al. Annals of Global Health, VOL. 82, NO. 2, 2016, 307-315