Most people know that smoking is bad for you and that it can cause cancer, but are you aware that smoking also creates serious effects within your circulatory system - the heart, arteries and veins that carry blood throughout your body? Not only should we be concerned with the risk of getting cancer, but we should be equally concerned, if not more so, about the damage that smoking causes within our blood and circulatory system. It has been stated that "smoking related circulatory disease kills far more smokers that lung cancer." Smoking cigarettes is the most preventable cause of premature death and accounts for more than 440,000 deaths each year in the United States.
When you smoke the circulatory system is greatly affected. In addition to nicotine there are numerous poisonous and toxic chemicals found in tobacco including, formaldehyde (which is used to preserve dead bodies), cyanide, insecticides, carbon monoxide and tar just to name a few. Some of these chemicals make your heart beat faster and stronger. Smoking also makes your blood vessels constrict, or become narrower, which forces the blood to flow through a smaller space, which can cause temporary high blood pressure. If you smoke long-term your chances of having high blood pressure all of the time are greatly increased. Smoking also increases the chance of fatty build up inside of the blood vessels, called atherosclerosis, due to the fact that when you smoke the bad cholesterol levels increase and the good cholesterol levels decrease. In addition, smoking increases your chance of blood clots that block the blood vessels, which over time can lead to a stroke (a sudden blockage of blood circulation in the brain) or a myocardial infarction (heart attack). If you are a woman that smokes and uses oral contraceptives, you have a much greater risk of having a stroke or developing heart disease compared to women who do not smoke.
Out of all the chemicals found in cigarettes the three most common are nicotine, carbon monoxide and tar. Nicotine is a highly addictive substance, with some comparing it to the strength of a heroin addiction. It is one of the reasons that so many people find it incredibly difficult to quit smoking. Carbon monoxide levels in a smoker's body are typically high and in turn increases the risk for heart disease. The blood in the human body is the transport system responsible for delivering all nutrients and oxygen to all the bodies organs and tissues. Inside healthy blood vessels there is a coating of cells that provide for a smooth flow of the blood within them. Carbon monoxide damages that layer of cells, which allows fats and plaque to stick to the walls inside the vessel. This in turn narrows the arteries and the veins, which leads to high blood pressure and cardio-vascular disease increasing your risk of heart attack and stroke. Tar is a carcinogen (cancer causing agent) and is the main cause of lung and throat cancer in those people who smoke.
The benefits of quitting smoking far outweigh the reasons to smoke. Within eight hours of quitting, the nicotine and carbon monoxide levels in your body return to normal. Your heart and lungs begin to repair the damage that was caused by smoking cigarettes. Within five years of quitting you will have decreased your risk of a heart attack by half of those that smoke, and after 10 years your risk of developing lung cancer also falls to half of those that smoke. In addition you will also reduce the risk of having a blood clot, developing emphysema and other serious lung diseases, your overall stamina and energy will improve, and your sense of smell and taste improves as well. If you smoke, quit today. You will breath better, your heart will be healthier and you will live well and longer.
Sources: American Heart Association, American Lung Association, Whyquit.com3