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The Final Step for Heart Health: Stop Smoking

January 20, 2011

The American Heart Association offers a simple, seven step list to help people live longer, healthier lives. They call them “Life’s Simple7” and they are: Get Active, Eat Better, Lose Weight, Stop Smoking, Control Cholesterol, Manage Blood Pressure, and Reduce Blood Sugar. This time we’ll focus on the damaging effect that smoking has on your health.

Stop smoking for heart healthSmoking alone increases the risk of coronary heart disease. When combined with the other factors, it increases your risk for serious heart trouble dramatically.

If you quit smoking, you extend the length of your life by reducing your risk of developing chronic disorders like atherosclerosis — a fancy name that describes the buildup of fatty substances in your arteries — which can lead to coronary heart disease, heart attack (myocardial infarction) and stroke.

Smoking decreases your tolerance for physical activity, making it difficult to exercise. And we know being active is one of the simple seven steps for heart health. Smoking can cause your blood to clot and decreases your HDL (good) cholesterol levels, which together encourage blockages. If you smoke and have a family history of heart disease, your risks increase almost exponentially. Smoking also creates a higher risk for peripheral artery disease and aortic aneurysm. It increases the risk of recurrent coronary heart disease after bypass surgery, too.

If you haven’t heard enough yet, here are some additional downers about smoking: it makes your breath smell, causes discoloration of your teeth, reduces your ability to taste food, and is a fire hazard.  How many reasons do you  need to quit? 

If you want more information, check out what the American Heart Association has to say. Hospitals and many states have hotlines with trained staff to help you stop smoking.

P.S. Parents should talk to kids about cigarette smoking before they even think of starting.