If you smoke, you can dramatically reduce your risk of heart disease by giving up.
If you already have coronary heart disease – the underlying problem in angina – giving up smoking will decrease your risk of serious symptoms such as heart attack and angina. If you already have angina or have had a heart attack, giving up smoking is one of the best ways to reduce your risk of recurrences or your condition getting worse.
Quitting smoking will also improve your general health and reduce your risk of developing other serious life-threatening conditions.
The good news is that fewer of us are smoking – less than 20 percent of Australians – and more and more of us are successfully giving up with the help of support services, doctors and aids such as nicotine replacement therapy and, in certain cases, medication.
Smoking kills close to 20,000 Australians each year – around 40 percent of these deaths are due to heart and blood vessel disease.
Its strong links to heart disease are due to the effect smoking has on the blood vessels, heart and lungs, all of which are intimately related.
Smoking significantly increases the risk of atherosclerosis – a condition where plaques form on artery walls and narrow the blood vessels. In the coronary arteries, atherosclerosis can lead to coronary artery disease and in other blood vessels, especially in your limbs, hands and feet, it increases your risk of peripheral vascular disease.
Cigarette smoke also impairs lung function in a number of ways. It lines the lungs with pollutants such as tar, inhibiting the exchange of vital gases on the surfaces of the lung, and decreases the availability of the oxygen you breathe in by flooding the body with harmful gases such as carbon monoxide.
As your lungs become less efficient, your heart is forced to work harder to sustain the supply of oxygenated blood to the body. Over time, this can lead to enlargement of the heart muscle, decreasing its efficiency and, in some cases, leading to heart failure.
Smoking is also a major risk factor for stroke and for cancer of the lung, mouth, oesophagus, larynx, kidney, pancreas, bladder, stomach and cervix.
It also contributes to many other debilitating and life-threatening diseases and causes Australians to spend hundreds of thousands of days in hospital each year.
Last published 31 October 2011
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