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World No Tobacco Day: How smoking affects your health?

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It is well known fact that cigarette smoking causes breathing problems and lung cancer. However, did you know it also increases the risk for several cardiac ailments including a heart attack? Tobacco is recognised as a risk factor in the development of coronary heart disease, stroke, and peripheral vascular disease.

The high level of carbon monoxide in tobacco smoke reduces the amount of oxygen the blood carries, causing vital organs such as heart, lungs, brain don’t receive enough oxygen to perform everyday functions. Smoking damages the lining of the arteries, causing a build-up of fatty material, which narrows the artery. This can cause angina, a heart attack or a stroke.

Further, nicotine causes an increase in heart rate and blood pressure. People who use tobacco are more likely to have disorders of the cardiovascular system such as heart attacks, high blood pressure, blood clots, strokes, haemorrhages, and aneurysms.

When a person smokes, it is not just their health that is at risk, but also the health of everyone around them. Breathing in other people’s smoke, known as second-hand smoke or passive smoking is as harmful as direct smoking.

Smoke in one area of the house will spread rapidly from room to room and can linger for up to five hours, exposing everyone in the room or visiting to be affected by the harmful effects of smoke.

Such continuous exposure in the long-term can increase the risk of coronary heart disease and stroke by around 30 per cent. Even with brief exposure, second-hand smoke makes the blood stickier, increasing the risk of forming blood clots, which can cause heart attacks, strokes, angina and complete heart failure. In pregnant women exposure to second-hand smoke increased the risk of complications during the pregnancy and after the birth.

According to the WHO, tobacco kills more than 7 million people each year. More than 6 million of those deaths are the result of direct smoking. According to a study, even only one cigarette a day also carries a higher risk of heart disease and stroke.  In India, tobacco use has fallen 12.5 percentage points for men and four percentage points for women–over a decade, but India is still the second highest producer and consumer of tobacco, according to National Tobacco Control Programme.

Maintaining a healthy heart is the best way to prevent ourselves from heart disease and stroke, which are among the most lethal killers. Not smoking tobacco is one of the few key habits individuals can cultivate for their health and the health of their families.

(Disclaimer: The writer Dr Nitin Bote is Consultant Interventional Cardiologist K J Somaiya Super Specialty Hospital. The views are personal opinion.)

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