Smoking & Heart
Smoking generally has negative health effects, because smoke inhalation inherently poses challenges to various physiologic processes such as respiration. Smoking tobacco is among the leading causes of many diseases such as lung cancer, heart attack, COPD, erectile dysfunction, and birth defects.
Smoking and the Risks to your Heart
Smoking is an incredibly powerful risk factor for developing blocked arteries, and that’s what leads to heart disease.
But blocked arteries also lead to stroke; blocked arteries in the legs can lead to pain on walking, and ultimately, to amputation. Smoking is a critical risk factor. Smoking is even more important as a risk factor if we consider when smoking starts.
Most people start smoking at a young age, in their teen years. And we know that the risk associated with smoking for developing plaque buildup in the arteries starts right around that time; it doesn’t start 20 years into smoking. And therefore all of the efforts at preventing our youth from taking up this risky habit.
Often, people who smoke will rationalize and say, “Well, I only smoke two cigarettes a day; I don’t smoke a pack a day.” In fact, there is a clear dose response relationship between the number of cigarettes smoked per day and the risk of developing heart disease, lung disease, cancer.
Recent studies have shown that even people who smoke two cigarettes a day double their lifetime risk for heart attack. Someone who smokes a pack a day can increase their risk for heart attack up to 10 times that of a non-smoker.
There are so many medical and societal reasons to quit smoking, and we all understand those. But quitting is not easy for everyone. Some people are able to quit without the aid of medication.
We do have effective medications now that can assist with smoking cessation. People have been concerned that these medications may be associated with risk of heart attack paradoxically, particularly in smokers who already have heart disease.
And the reassurances that these medications do not increase the risk of heart attack and in fact smokers – especially those with heart disease – should strongly consider these drugs to assist them with smoking cessation.
If you are a smoker, if you want to learn more, absolutely speak with your family physician. They could provide you with advice, treatment options and referrals to smoking cessation programs and specialists that can help you.
Presenter: Dr. Milan Gupta, Cardiologist, Brampton, ON
Local Practitioners: Cardiologist