Construction workers, like most Americans, think that smokers die primarily from lung cancer. But, only 20% of tobacco related deaths are from lung cancer. The majority of tobacco-related deaths are from heart disease. Nearly 1 out of 5 deaths from heart disease is tobacco related. That is nearly 200,000 deaths per year. Nearly 40,000 non-smokers die from heart disease as a result of secondhand smoke. Why? Researchers have identified several ways tobacco harms the cardiovascular system.
Ø Tobacco decreases the proportion of HDL (good) cholesterol to LDL (bad) cholesterol, which leads to an accumulation of plaque in the blood vessels.
Ø Tobacco increases the tendency of the blood to clot.
Ø Substances in tobacco may damage the protective lining of the blood vessels.
Ø Nicotine increases the heart rate by 15 to 25 beats per minute and blood pressure goes up by 15 to 25 points.
Ø Carbon Monoxide builds up in the bloodstream slowing the transfer of oxygen to the body.
All this adds up to an increased risk of heart attack, especially if you have other risk factors like a family history of heart disease, hypertension, overweight, or diabetes. But, if you stop smoking, your risk of heart disease is cut in half in one year. After 10 years your risk is about as low as if you had never smoked. This Valentines Day do your heart and your loved ones a favor. Stop using tobacco.
For help call
The California Smokers' Helpline
Sources: American Heart Association; Centers for Disease Control (CDC); Office of Smoking and Health