RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Smoking is the number one avoidable risk factor for heart disease. We have known for years that smoking is associated with damage to the heart, lungs and blood vessels.
For decades it has not been clear exactly how smoking damages the heart—a new study published in Circulation provides new insight.
- What are the dangers of smoking?
Forty million Americans smoke cigarettes today. Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the United States, accounting for more than 480,000 deaths every year, or one of every five deaths.
More than 17 million Americans live with a smoking related illness. Lung cancer, head and neck cancer as well as heart disease are commonly associated with smoking.
- In this new study, how does smoking damage the heart?
In this study patients were imaged using an echocardiogram (which is an ultrasound of the heart). Researchers found that in smokers, the pumping chamber of the heart (known as the left ventricle) thickened and did not function as well as a normal nonsmoker’s heart.
In fact, most smokers in the study were found to have reduced heart function after years of smoking. What was also interesting is that in the subjects that had heart abnormalities and quit smoking, their hearts returned to normal.
- What steps can you take to stop smoking?
The first step is to commit to quit.
- Set a date and circle it on the calendar
- Write down why you want to quit
- Tell friends and family and have them help hold you accountable
- Do not smoke any cigarettes—no benefit to tapering
- Seek medical help if you need it (meds, patches, etc.)