By JACLYN ‘JACKIE’ FRANKS, MPH
HHS Extension Educator, Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service, Kosciusko County
We all know that smoking is unhealthy, addictive, and can alter the balance of chemicals in our brains. Despite the dangers of smoking to our health, 22 percent of residents in Kosciusko County are smokers according to County Health Rankings. It may surprise you to know that in addition to the other myriad of health problems smoking can cause, it can also increase your risk of heart disease and stroke by 2 to 4 times. Also, women who smoke have a 25 percent higher risk of developing heart disease compared to men who smoke, and continuing to smoke during your life may reduce your life expectancy by 13-14 years.
The chemicals in tobacco smoke:
- Harm your blood cells and vessels and prevent oxygen from getting to your heart, brain, and arteries
- Damage the function of your heart and structure and function of blood vessels
- Increase your risk of atherosclerosis (plaque build-up in the arteries)
- Cause your heart rate and blood pressure to skyrocket
- Lower your tolerance for physical activity and decreases good cholesterol
Any amount of smoking, even light smoking or occasional smoking, damages the heart and blood vessels. In addition, secondhand smoke can also harm the blood vessels because it contains many of the 4,000 chemicals that people inhale with they smoke.
The best way to reduce your risk of heart disease is to quit smoking and avoid tobacco smoke. When you quit smoking, your risk for heart disease and stroke can be cut in half just one year later and will continue to decline. While quitting smoking is possible and worthwhile, it also isn’t easy. The Indiana Quitline can set you up with a free smoking-cessation specialist who will guide you to the resources they have available including a Web Coach and Text2Quit service. The Quitline is completely free and can be reached by calling 1.800.QUIT.NOW. Additionally, your primary care doctor may be able to provide you with some different resources including strategies or medications that may help you be successful.
Listen to your heart, and the hearts of those you love and take steps today to improve your heart health. Wishing you all a “Heart Healthy” February.