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Smoking can lead to heart, vascular damage January 8, 2010

For more information, contact Erica Cline at 706/828-2397.

Smoking can lead to heart, vascular damage

(AUGUSTA, GA. – Jan. 7, 2010) It’s the start of a new year, and many smokers are making a commitment to quitting for good. The effects of smoking and second-hand smoke on the lungs are undeniable, but many people might now know is how dangerous it is to the cardiovascular system.

Smoking is a primary risk factor for vascular coronary heart disease, the leading cause of death and disability in the United States.

Quitting smoking can seem to be an insurmountable task, but Cheryl Wheeler, coordinator of University Hospital’s Cancer Registry and facilitator of the hospital’s free Fresh Start Smoking Cessation classes, said people don’t have to go it alone.

“While many people are able to quit cold turkey, studies have shown that a combination of behavior modification and smoking-cessation aids can greatly improve the chances of quitting smoking,” she said.

Ms. Wheeler said over-the-counter products such as patches, lozenges and gums work very well – as long as you follow the directions – and newer prescription medications such as Chantix and Zyban have proven effective as well.

Talk with your physician if you would like more information about available prescriptions and log on to www.universityhealth.org/calendar to view the upcoming schedule of Fresh Start classes at University Hospital.

Here are some facts to remember about smoking and cardiovascular disease:

  • Smoking causes coronary heart disease, the leading cause of death in the United States. Cigarette smokers are 2–4 times more likely to develop coronary heart disease than nonsmokers.
  • Cigarette smoking approximately doubles a person's risk for stroke.
  • Cigarette smoking causes reduced circulation by narrowing the blood vessels (arteries). Smokers are more than 10 times as likely as nonsmokers to develop peripheral vascular disease.
  • Smoking causes abdominal aortic aneurysm.
  • Secondhand smoke exposure causes heart disease and lung cancer in nonsmoking adults.
  • Nonsmokers who are exposed to secondhand smoke at home or work increase their heart disease risk by 25–30 percent and their lung cancer risk by 20–30 percent.
  • Breathing secondhand smoke has immediate harmful effects on the cardiovascular system that can increase the risk of heart attack. People who already have heart disease are at especially high risk.

Source: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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