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Smoking and Heart Disease Introduction
A person's risk of heart disease and heart attack greatly increases with the number of cigarettes he or she smokes. Smokers continue to increase their risk of heart attack the longer they smoke. People who smoke a pack of cigarettes a day have more than twice the risk of heart attack than nonsmokers. Women who smoke and also take birth control pills increase several times their risk of heart attack, stroke, and peripheral vascular disease.
Cigarette smoke not only affects smokers. When you smoke, the people around you are also at risk for developing health problems, especially children. Environmental tobacco smoke (also called passive smoke or secondhand smoke) affects people who are frequently around smokers. Secondhand smoke can cause chronic respiratory conditions, cancer, and heart disease. It is estimated that around 35,000 nonsmokers die from heart disease each year as a result of exposure to environmental tobacco smoke.
Quick Guide25 Effects of Smoking on Your Looks and Life
How Does Smoking Increase Heart Disease Risk?
The nicotine present in smoke causes heart disease by:
How Can Quitting Smoking Be Helpful?
Now that you know how smoking can be harmful to your health and the health of those around you, here are some ways quitting can be helpful. If you quit smoking, you will:
- Prolong your life.
- Reduce your risk of disease (including heart disease, heart attack,
blood pressure, lung cancer, throat cancer,
gum disease, and
- Feel healthier. After quitting, you won't cough as much, you'll have fewer
sore throats and you will increase your stamina.
- Look better. Quitting can help you prevent face
wrinkles, get rid of
stained teeth, and improve your skin.
- Improve your sense of taste and smell.
- Save money.
How to Quit Smoking
There's no one way to quit smoking that works for everyone. To quit, you must be ready both emotionally and mentally. You must also want to quit smoking for yourself and not to please your friends or family. It helps to plan ahead. This guide may help get you started.
What Should I Do First to Stop Smoking?
Pick a date to stop smoking and then stick to it.
Write down your reasons for quitting smoking. Read over the list every day, before and after you quit. Here are some tips to think about.
- Write down when you smoke, why you smoke, and what you are doing when you
smoke. You will learn what triggers you to smoke.
- Stop smoking cigarettes in certain situations (such as during your work
break or after dinner) before actually quitting.
- Make a list of activities you can do instead of smoking. Be ready to do
something else when you want to smoke.
- Ask your doctor about using
nicotine gum or patches. Some people find these
- Join a smoking cessation support group or program. Call your local chapter of the American Lung Association.
How Can I Avoid Smoking Again?
- Don't carry a lighter, matches, or cigarettes. Keep all of these smoking
reminders out of sight.
- If you live with a smoker, ask that person not to smoke in your presence,
or better yet, to quit with you.
- Don't focus on what you are missing. Think about the healthier way of life
you are gaining.
- When you get the urge to smoke, take a deep breath. Hold it for 10 seconds
and release it slowly. Repeat this several times until the urge to smoke is
- Keep your hands busy. Doodle, play with a pencil or straw, or work on a
- Change activities that were connected to smoking cigarettes. Take a walk or
read a book instead of taking a cigarette break.
- When you can, avoid places, people, and situations associated with smoking.
Hang out with nonsmokers or go to places that don't allow smoking, such as the
movies, museums, shops, or libraries.
- Don't substitute food or sugar-based products for cigarette smoking. Eat
low-calorie, healthful foods (such as carrot or celery sticks, sugar-free hard
candies) or chew gum when the urge to smoke strikes so you can avoid weight
- Drink plenty of fluids, but limit alcoholic and caffeinated beverages. They
can trigger urges to smoke.
- Exercise. Exercising will help you relax.
- Get support for quitting. Tell others about your milestones with pride.
- Work with your doctor to develop a plan using over-the-counter or prescription nicotine-replacement aids.
Quick Guide25 Effects of Smoking on Your Looks and Life
How Will I Feel When I Quit Smoking?
You may crave cigarettes, be irritable, feel very hungry, cough often, get headaches, or have difficulty concentrating. These symptoms of withdrawal occur because your body is used to nicotine, the active addictive agent within cigarettes.
When withdrawal symptoms occur within the first two weeks after quitting, stay in control. Think about your reasons for quitting. Remind yourself that these are signs that your body is healing and getting used to being without cigarettes.
The withdrawal symptoms are only temporary. They are strongest when you first quit but will usually go away within 10 to 14 days. Remember that withdrawal symptoms are easier to treat than the major diseases -- like heart disease and lung cancer -- that smoking can cause.
You may still have the desire to smoke, since there are many strong associations with smoking. People may associate smoking with specific situations, with a variety of emotions or with certain people in their lives. The best way to overcome these associations is to experience them without smoking cigarettes. If you relapse do not lose hope. Seventy-five percent of those who quit smoke again. Most smokers quit three times before they are successful. If you relapse, don't give up! Plan ahead and think about what you will do next time you get the urge to smoke.
The good news is your risk of heart disease is cut in half after quitting tobacco for one year. After 15 smoke free years, your risk is similar to that of a person who has never smoked.
WebMD Medical Reference
Reviewed by James E. Gerace, MD on March 09, 2010
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Coronary Artery Disease Screening Tests (CAD)
Coronary heart disease or coronary heart disease (CAD) screening tests can be used to potentially prevent a heart attack or cardiac event in a person without heart disease symptoms, and can assist in diagnosing heart disease in individuals with heart disease symptoms. Examples of coronary heart disease tests include:
- electrocardiogram (ECC, EKG),
- exercise stress test,
- radionuclide stress test,
- stress echocardiography,
- pharmacologic stress test,
- CT coronary angiogram, and
- coronary angiogram.
Heart Attack Symptoms and Early Warning SignsRecognizing heart attack symptoms and signs can help save your life or that of someone you love. Some heart attack symptoms, including left arm pain and chest pain, are well known but other, more nonspecific symptoms may be associated with a heart attack. Nausea, vomiting, malaise, indigestion, sweating, shortness of breath, and fatigue may signal a heart attack. Heart attack symptoms and signs in women may differ from those in men.
Heart Disease (Coronary Artery Disease)
Heart disease (coronary artery disease) occurs when plaque builds up in the coronary arteries, the vessels that supply blood to the heart. Heart disease can lead to heart attack. Risk factors for heart disease include:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Family history
Angina, shortness of breath, and sweating are just a few symptoms that may indicate a heart attack. Treatment of heart disease involves control of heart disease risk factors through lifestyle changes, medications, and/or stenting or bypass surgery. Heart disease can be prevented by controlling heart disease risk factors.
High Blood Pressure HypertensionHigh blood pressure is defined as a pressure of 140/90 mmHg or higher in the arteries. Genetic factors, high salt intake, and increased arterial stiffness cause high blood pressure. Dizziness, headache, nausea, and shortness of breath are just a few symptoms of high blood pressure. Untreated high blood pressure increases the risk of heart disease, kidney disease, atherosclerosis, eye damage, stroke, and increased risk of aneurysms. High blood pressure can be managed with weight loss, lifestyle changes, and medication.
Elevated homocysteine levels (hyperhomocysteinemia) is a sign that the body isn't producing enough of the amino acid homocysteine. The condition may be genetic (inherited) called homocystinuria. Homocystinuria is a somewhat rare genetic (inherited) condition that includes symptoms like developmental delays, osteoporosis, blood clots, heart attack, heart disease, stroke, and visual abnormalities died at an early age. There are other causes of the condition like alcoholism.
Supplementing the diet with folic acid and possibly vitamins B6 and B12 supplements can lower homocysteine levels. Currently there is no direct proof that taking folic acid and B vitamins to lower homocysteine levels prevent heart attacks and strokes. Talk to your doctor if you feel you need to have your homocysteine blood levels checked.
Lung CancerLung cancer kills more men and women than any other form of cancer. Eight out of 10 lung cancers are due to tobacco smoke. Lung cancers are classified as either small cell or non-small cell cancers.
Lung Cancer Myths/FactsLearn about lung cancer myths and facts. Explore how cigar smoke, menthol, and pollution can increase your risk of lung cancer and learn what to avoid.
ParathyroidectomyParathyroidectomy is the removal of one or more of the parathyroid glands to treat hyperparathyroidism. Risks of parathyroidectomy include:
- paralysis of the vocal cords,
- difficulty swallowing thin liquids,
- difficulty breathing,
- and drug reactions.
- damage to the recurrent laryngeal nerve,
- bleeding or hematoma,
- problems maintaining calcium levels in the blood,
- need for further and more aggressive surgery,
- need for a limited or total thyroidectomy,
- prolonged pain,
- impaired healing,
- and recurrence of the tumor.
Peripheral Vascular Disease
Peripheral vascular disease (PVD) refers to diseases of the blood vessels (arteries and veins) located outside the heart and brain. While there are many causes of peripheral vascular disease, doctors commonly use the term peripheral vascular disease to refer to peripheral artery disease (peripheral arterial disease, PAD), a condition that develops when the arteries that supply blood to the internal organs, arms, and legs become completely or partially blocked as a result of atherosclerosis. Peripheral artery disease symptoms include:
- Intermittent Leg pain while walking
- Leg pain at rest
- Numbness in the
Treatment for peripheral artery disease includes: lifestyle measures, medication, angioplasty, and surgery.
Signs and symptoms of pregnancy vary by stage (trimester). The earliest pregnancy symptom is typically a missed period, but others include
breast swelling and tenderness,
- nausea and sometimes vomiting,
- fatigue, and
Second trimester symptoms include
- weight gain,
- itching, and
- possible stretch marks.
Third trimester symptoms are
- additional weight gain,
- swelling of the ankles,
- fingers, and face,
- breast tenderness, and
- trouble sleeping.
Eating a healthy diet, getting a moderate amount of exercise, also are recommended for a healthy pregnancy. Information about the week by week growth of your baby in the womb are provided.
Take the Smoking QuizYou know it's time you quit smoking. Learn the myths and facts about quitting smoking with the Smoking Quiz. When it comes to smoking, quitters always win!
Stroke Symptoms and Treatment
A stroke is an interruption of the blood supply to part of the brain caused by either a blood clot (ischemic) or bleeding (hemorrhagic). Symptoms of a stroke may include
- double vision or vision loss,
- vertigo, and
- difficulty speaking or understanding speech.
A physical exam, imaging tests, neurological exam, and blood tests may be used to diagnose a stroke. Treatment may include administration of clot-busting drugs, supportive care, and in some instances, neurosurgery. The risk of stroke can be reduced by controlling high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and stopping smoking.