Smoking : #1 cardiac risk factor

Smoking has got to be the biggest risk factor in cardiac disease. Cigarettes have 100’s of chemicals that are toxic and carcinogenic (cancer causing) and has been linked to premature death and is the leader in preventable death in the world, I did say preventable. With all its health risks people still turn to tobacco. Usually people turn to it when they are teenagers in the rebellious stage and trying to stake their own independence in the world. Once it has its hold on you it is very difficult to break free. Smoking is a habit that you think has benefits but really it is a habit that only takes. It takes your breath away and it takes your health away. The only “benefit” to you is the endless addiction and the soothing ability when the smoker takes a puff. It is all an illusion since the “soothing” feeling is the brain’s recognition of nicotine as it enters the bloodstream since the body thinks it needs the nicotine. The relaxation feeling you get after a puff of smoke is the body’s reaction to the nicotine. Nicotine is a stimulant and a smooth muscle relaxer. After long term use the user gets the sensation of relaxation due to the body being addicted. Once the body is addicted to the nicotine it feels it “needs” it. Hence when a person takes a puff after a long time without it, it feels soothing and relaxing. The difficulty in quitting is also aided by the fact how readily available the cigarettes are. Just a short drive to the corner store and there they are staring you down begging you to but just one pack. It never is just one pack and then the cycle of addiction is renewed.

Arsenic and Benzene are only a couple of carcinogenics found in cigarettes. It disrupts the lining of the nose and throat and kills the cells on the outer most layers. This layer has hair like projectiles called cilia. They act as a barrier collecting dust and pathogens (viruses and bacteria) that would otherwise enter the body. Once this layer has been disrupted the body is susceptible to infections. As the smoke travels into the lungs, tar and other chemicals deposit onto the fragile air sacs of the lungs and damage their ability to be elastic and transfer oxygen and carbon dioxide. Once this ability has been compromised the body becomes starved of oxygen and a build up of carbon dioxide ensues leaving you short of breath. This leads to conditions known as COPD and possibly CHF. Breathing and the Cardiac system are closely related, what happens with one happens with the other. Now the body has a decrease in the ability to fight infection and less circulating oxygen. Since the requirements for oxygen have not changed in the body the only way the body can get the same amount of oxygen to all cells including the heart is increase the heart rate. The Increased heart rate over time causes the heart to become enlarged with the larger working capacity. This condition leads to CHF. Nicotine in the blood acts as a diuretic (a substance that makes you urinate) as with drinking coffee or consuming alcohol, (two others that are diuretics). With less water intake and increased peeing the actual blood becomes thickened (dehydration) which leads to the formation of clots. This formation leads all kinds of troubles from heart attack, DVT, stroke, and other arrhythmias like atrial fibrillation, and SVT.

Smoking leads to all sorts of serious illnesses and you get no real benefit. Quitting is the only real alternative. Quitting has to be very difficult and it is difficult because of lack of motivation. With the right motivation at the right time anyone can quit. I will not say it is easy to quit but with the right tools it is easier to quit today then in anytime in history. I’ve smoked for 15 years and this is how I quit. I’ve tried to quit several times and they say that with every attempt at quitting you get closer to actually quitting. Every attempt had an underlying tone; other people suggested I quit. Yes at the time I truly wanted to quit, but the initial suggestion was always someone else’s. I used nicotine patches and quit. Without any real reason to stay quit and the first sign of stress I went back. Then I tried Zyban and quit. Again the same problem crept in without any real reason to stay quit I went back to it. I see people come and go at work that has COPD and difficulty breathing related to smoking and I say to myself that won’t happen to me, and I still smoked. Then I took Zyban again and it took a little longer to quit but I did it. Again new stressors came into play and without anyway to deal with stress I went back. I knew how to deal with stress; with my bad habit. I hadn’t taught myself how to cope without it. Then a new drug came out called Champix and I quit again, but went back again. Then finally I had 3 children and one day they changed me I finally looked at what it was a hindrance a means to a dead end. I knew I didn’t want that. I wanted to live and be free from smoking. It happened to be a stressful time that I chose to quit but did it anyways, why? I was motivated and it was my idea. So I scheduled a time with my doctor and we discussed options to quit. So I chose Champix again but this time a 3 month supply to make sure I had a chance to switch habits to a healthier one. Then I started a running routine. Today I’m still quit and so addicted to running and eating healthy I will not go back. I have a taste of the healthy lifestyle and I’m no longer addicted to cigarettes that it wouldn’t make sense to give everything up now.

I quit after several attempts because:

1. I had a long term plan (i.e. run a marathon)

Choose a long term plan, something that you have to quit smoking to achieve. It also has to be something you are passionate about. For me running has always been natural for me and I had always wanted to run a marathon. I was able to start training after I quit, I therefore had replaced it with something more healthy and sustainable.

2. I was motivated, highly motivated people can do anything.

I was highly motivated to quit I have young children with Muscular Dystrophy and the leading cause of death for them is pneumonia. It is especially bad when smoking can lead to pneumonia. I wanted to help my children grow not be the reason for their death. Therefore quitting was essentially a life or death situation!

3. Tried several products and I knew how they worked for me.

Know how you react to the products and how you feel about them. Develop a plan with your doctor and discuss the use of different products. Become your best advocate.

4. Picked the best product for me and enough for 3 months.

Choose the best product that you feel you can use. It is critical to be honest with yourself. Remember you chose to quit, you choose how you quit.

5. Switched to a sustainable healthy habit.

Make sure you switch to a healthy sustainable habit. Stress in life is not going to stop but you can stop how you deal with stress.

Return from smoking to Risk Factors

Return from smoking to Heart disease and prevention Home page

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