We all know that smoking causes devastating effects to your health. However, nearly 40 million people in the United States still smoke on a regular basis. Even smoking just a few cigarettes a day can have a tremendous impact on your body – specifically, your cardiovascular system.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, smoking cigarettes is a contributing factor to a third of all cardiovascular disease related deaths in America. Even a non-smoker who is exposed to secondhand smoke can develop cardiovascular disease from inhaling the harmful toxins in cigarettes.
Cigarettes are composed of thousands of harmful chemicals, including nicotine, lead, ammonia, and carbon monoxide. With each puff of a cigarette, these chemicals travel from the lungs into the bloodstream, carrying the toxins to every organ. These chemicals cause the cells in blood vessels to become swollen and inflamed, which can lead to atherosclerosis, peripheral artery disease (PAD), heart attack, and stroke.
The addictive properties of nicotine are where the real harm in smoking truly lies. The more one smokes cigarettes, the more they become addicted to them. However, it’s important to note that tobacco smoke, and the thousands of harmful chemicals found in it, is the true cause of smoking-related disease and mortality, not nicotine. While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has future plans to mandate a reduction in nicotine levels found in cigarettes – in hopes of making it more difficult for smokers to become addicted to this harmful habit – it will be years before this initiative takes place.
Although it can be difficult for cigarette smokers to break their addiction, it’s never too late to quit. Those who quit smoking will see improvements in their heart health immediately. One year after quitting, their risk for heart attack decreases drastically. After five years, their risk for stroke is similar to that of someone who has never smoked.