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Posted at: Jun 1, 2019, 11:54 AM; last updated: Jun 1, 2019, 11:54 AM (IST)

Kick the butt for a better ticker

Cigarette smoking increases the risk of coronary heart disease and lung cancer even among the young

Dr Harinder Singh Bedi

Tobacco use is the single most preventable cause of death globally and is currently responsible for killing one in 10 adults. The global tobacco epidemic kills nearly 6 million people worldwide each year, of which more than 600 000 are non-smokers who die from breathing second-hand smoke. Unless we act, the epidemic will kill more than 8 million people every year by 2030. More than 80 per cent of these preventable deaths will be among people living in low and middle-income countries. Every cigarette takes away five minutes of one’s life. 

Effect on heart

Tobacco abuse is a major risk factor for coronary artery disease — blockage of heart arteries that can cause a heart attack. According to a WHO estimate, in developing countries, 35 per cent of all deaths related to heart and blood vessel disorders in the 35-69 years age group are related to smoking. The incidence of heart disease is 3-5 times higher in smokers than non-smokers. People who smoke 20 or more cigarettes a day are twice as likely to have a heart attack as non-smokers. Their chances of dying of a heart attack are 70 per cent more than in non-smokers.

Cigarette and tobacco smoke, high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure, physical inactivity, obesity and diabetes are the six major independent risk factors for coronary heart disease that you can modify or control. Cigarette smoking is a widespread and a significant risk factor. According to Surgeon General of USA, “It is the leading preventable cause of disease and deaths in the USA.” 

Cigarette smoking increases the risk of coronary heart disease by increasing blood pressure, decreasing exercise tolerance, promoting the deposition of fat in the wall of the arteries by damaging the cells lining the arteries and increasing the tendency for blood to clot. The effect is cumulative – the more you smoke – the greater your risk. A person’s risk of heart attack greatly increases with the number of cigarettes he or she smokes. People who smoke a pack a day have more than twice the risk of heart attack than non-smokers. 

Harms of passive smoking

The link between second hand smoke (also called environmental tobacco smoke) and disease is quite strong, and is a major cause of cardiovascular-related disability and death in non smokers. 

How can quitting help

Quitting smoking helps to prolong a healthy life, reduces risk of various diseases (including heart disease, heart attack, high blood pressure, lung cancer, throat cancer, emphysema, ulcers, gum disease and other conditions), improves health and looks. It can help prevent face wrinkles, get rid of stained teeth and improve your skin; improves the sense of taste and smell, and saves money. 

All forms of tobacco — cigarettes, pipes, cigars, and smokeless tobacco — are hazardous to health. It doesn’t help to substitute products that may seem better than regular cigarettes such as filter or low-tar cigarettes. 

The incidence of patients requiring bypass surgery as young as young as 30 years is rising as is the number of young patients with lung cancer. A fast-paced life, sedentary lifestyle and increased consumption of fast food is taking a major toll. 

One factor which can be easily controlled is the avoidance of tobacco use. Even after a bypass surgery or angioplasty the risk of reblockge is dramatically increased in smokers. There have instances of surgeons deferring surgery on elective cases who initially refused to commit to a stoppage of smoking after surgery.

Good news

The good news is that quit smoking boosts heart and lung health: Smokers who quit or even just cut down on cigarettes can begin to reap the health benefits within a few months. Individuals who gradually quit smoking get improvements in risk factors for heart disease, including lower cholesterol and carbon monoxide levels. It is never too late to stop smoking. The benefits begin as soon as you stop.

Staying smoke free will give you a whole lot more of everything - more energy, better performance, better looks, more money in your pocket, and, in the long run, more life to live!

Impact on other organs

One out of five stroke cases are attributed to smoking. 

Peripheral arterial disease: Smokers have a 16 times greater risk of developing peripheral vascular disease (blocked blood vessels in the legs or feet) than people who have never smoked. The blockage if unchecked leads to gangrene and amputation of limbs.

Non-cardiovascularhealth problems

Respiratory diseases: The focus of this year’s World No Tobacco Day is on “tobacco and lung health”. Smoking is a major cause of respiratory ailments such as lung cancer, chronic bronchitis, frequent pneumonia and respiratory failure. About 80 per cent of the deaths from respiratory diseases are attributable to smoking. Lung cancer accounts for 15 per cent of all cancers in India.

Scary numbers

According to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), WHO and Tobacco Institute of India there is one death every eight seconds in India directly related to smoking. In India there are 250 million tobacco users ie about one in four persons is a user. They constitute about 57 per cent of adult males and 3 per cent of adult females. At least 17 per cent male and 9 per cent female smokers are in the age group of 13- 17 years. An average 50 per cent persons smoke bidis while 36 per cent chew tobacco / gutka and most start smoking at the age of 15 years.

— The writer is founder president of the Association of North Zone Cardio Thoracic and Vascular Surgeons

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