Smoking contributes to Heart Disease and Stroke
Heart disease is a term that refers to a broad range of conditions from
atherosclerosis ( hardening of the arteries ) to myocardial infarctions (
major heart attacks ). It results from many factors, one of which is
Although smoking does not actually cause heart disease, it contributes to
nearly every physiological factor associated with it. For example, smoking
significantly increases the risk of having angina ( chest pains that occur
when the heart muscle does not get enough blood supply ) and dying of
heart attack. Smoking also increases the risk of a second heart attack among
people who have already had one. The risk of heart disease for people who
smoke more than one pack of cigarettes a day is three times higher than for
a nonsmoker. Although in general women die of heart disease less often than
men, women who smoke have a higher incidence of heart disease than women who
do not smoke.
The two major components in smoke that contribute to heart disease are
nicotine and carbon monoxide. Nicotine increases blood pressure, heart rate,
the amount of blood pumped by the heart and the blood flow in the arteries;
carbon monoxide reduces the amount of oxygen available to the heart and
other parts of the body.
The third leading cause of death in the United States ( after heart
disease and cancer ) is stroke. It also is a major cause of morbidity, with
more than 400,000 Americans suffering nonfatal strokes a year. Much of this
is avoidable because smoking is the major cause of stroke. the mechanism at
work here is a decrease in cerebral blood flow, which is associated with
smoking. In addition, smoking increases the risk for heart disease and
congestive heart failure, both of which increase the risk for stroke.
Women who smoke and take birth control pills are three times more likely
to die of heart attack or stroke than nonsmoking women on the pill. This
risk is considered so great that the Food and Drug Administration requires
that all birth control pill products have the following label : "Women who
use oral contraceptives should not smoke."
Smoking cessation can dramatically reduce the risks of both heart disease
and stroke. Some studies show a benefit within two years of quitting, but
others suggest that the former smoker's risk gradually decreases over a
period of several years.