Go Ahead – Be a Quitter!
When it comes to smoking rates among Americans, it is a bit of a good news/bad news scenario:
The good news is that the percentage of Americans who smoke continues to decline, from 20.9 percent in 2005 to 13.7 percent in 2018. Those percentages are even more striking when you consider that in 1964, 42 percent of Americans smoked. Over the last 56 years, the number of smokers in the U.S. has decreased by 67 percent!
But now the bad news: About 32.4 million American adults still smoke cigarettes, causing an estimated 480,000 deaths every year, including more than 41,000 deaths resulting from secondhand smoke exposure.
Some people only think of smoking’s impact on the lungs, but smoking is also one of the leading causes of cardiovascular disease.
Show Your Heart Some Love – Stop Smoking
Our lungs deliver oxygen to the heart, which then pumps oxygen-rich blood to the rest of the body. Cigarette smoke (including second-hand smoke) contains a toxic mix of thousands of chemicals. When that smoke is inhaled, it poisons the oxygenated blood that goes to the heart and eventually gets redistributed throughout the rest of the body.
The chemicals in cigarette smoke can lead to a number of conditions that affect the heart or blood vessels, including:
- coronary heart disease
- hypertension (high blood pressure)
- heart attack
- peripheral artery disease
It’s Never Too Late to Quit
Every November since 1977, the American Cancer Society has designated the third Thursday of November as the Great American Smokeout. It is an effort to encourage smokers to commit to healthy, smoke-free lives—not just for a day, but year-round.
For long-time smokers who think the damage is already done and quitting won’t make a difference, consider these important points:
- Twenty minutes after you quit smoking, your heart rate drops.
- Just 12 hours after quitting smoking, the carbon monoxide level in the blood drops to normal, allowing more oxygen to vital organs like your heart.
- Within four years of quitting, your risk of stroke drops to that of lifetime nonsmokers.
As part of the Great American Smokeout, the American Cancer Society offers a number of tips, resources and 24/7 support for those who want to quit.
In addition, the cardiovascular specialists of Virginia Heart are ready to help patients and their families in their efforts to kick the habit. Our Risk Factor Modification program provides insights and support on the key lifestyle changes that can reduce the risk factors for heart disease, including how to quit smoking.
So this November, give your loved ones something to be truly thankful for: a smoke-free lifestyle and a future of better cardiovascular health.