Holistic Heart Disease Prevention
Keeping a Clean Heart
The human heart’s job is to pump nutrient-rich blood throughout your body. If you smoke, take drugs, or drink alcohol excessively, you are giving your heart extra work. How do you feel when you have too much work to do? Your heart cannot handle too much extra work over a long period of time. Over time, the health of your heart will suffer.
Scientists have proven that smoking doubles your risk of having a heart attack and doubles, triples, or quadruples your risk of sudden cardiac death. Each year, over 300,000 Americans die of smoking-related heart disease. So, don’t smoke. If you do, quit. The sooner you quit, the sooner your risk will start to decline. There is hope. Former smokers can completely lower their risk of sudden cardiac death within ten years of quitting.
Because they are foreign substances, any drug can affect your heart. Even prescribed medications can. However, since prescribed medications are legal, doctors are able to control the effect a drug will have on your heart by controlling the dosage. With illegal drugs (cocaine, heroin, marijuana, amphetamines, etc.), YOU have to control the effect on your heart. Can you do that? Only if you don’t take any. Even a small amount of a drug can be potentially fatal. So, don’t use illegal drugs. If you do, quit.
While drinking alcohol in moderation may not pose a risk, drinking excessively does pose a serious hazard to your heart. While alcohol flows in your bloodstream, the nutrient-rich blood is less able to nourish the heart. If the alcohol content is excessive, your heart will be in danger. So, don’t drink alcohol excessively. If you do, quit. Smoking by itself increases the risk of coronary heart disease.
When it acts with the other factors, it greatly increases your risk from those factors, too. Smoking decreases your tolerance for physical activity and increases the tendency for blood to clot. It decreases HDL (good) cholesterol. Your risks increase greatly if you smoke and have a family history of heart disease. 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.
Smoking is also an important risk factor for stroke. Inhaling cigarette smoke produces several effects that damage the cerebrovascular system. Women who take oral contraceptives and smoke increase their risk of stroke many times. Cigars and pipes aren’t a “safer” alternative to cigarettes. People who smoke cigars or pipes seem to have a higher risk of death from coronary heart disease (and possibly stroke), even though their risk isn’t as great as that of cigarette smokers.
Breathe clean air
It’s also important to avoid other people’s smoke. The link between secondhand smoke (also called environmental tobacco smoke) and disease is well known, and the connection to cardiovascular-related disability and death is also clear. Each year about 38,000 people die from heart and blood vessel disease caused by other people’s smoke. Nonsmokers who are exposed to secondhand smoke at home or at work increase their risk of developing heart disease by 25–30 percent.
Let the healing begin today
If you already have heart disease, you may think, “What good will it do me to quit smoking now?” But don’t be discouraged. Your lungs can begin to heal themselves as soon as you stop harming them with more smoke. Heart disease can be prevented and controlled, but you must follow your treatment plan — and quitting smoking is a big part.
You probably know smoking is bad for you, but do you realize exactly how dangerous it is? It’s important to understand your risks, but there’s a lot more to quitting than frightening statistics. Your journey to a smoke-free living will help you turn your life around in many positive ways.
After one month of living smoke-free:
- You’ll soon be able to exercise or perform activities with less shortness of breath.
- Your clothes, your body, your car, and your home will smell better.
- Your sense of taste and smell will return to normal.
- The stains on your teeth and fingernails will start to fade.
Timeline of smoke-free living benefits
According to the American Heart Association and the U.S. surgeon general, this is how your body starts to recover:
- In your first 20 minutes after quitting: your blood pressure and heart rate recover from the cigarette-induced spike.
- After 12 hours of smoke-free living: the carbon monoxide levels in your blood return to normal.
- After two weeks to three months of smoke-free living: your circulation and lung function begin to improve.
- After one to nine months of smoke-free living: clear and deeper breathing gradually returns as coughing and shortness of breath diminishes; you regain the ability to cough productively
- instead of hacking, which cleans your lungs and reduces your risk of infection.
- One year after quitting smoking, a person’s risk of coronary heart disease is reduced by 50 percent.
- Five to 15 years after quitting smoking, a person’s risk of stroke is similar to that of a nonsmoker.
- After 10 years of smoke-free living, your lung cancer death rate is about half that of a person who has continued to smoke. The risk of other cancers, such as throat, mouth, esophagus,
- bladder, cervix, and pancreas decrease, too.
Many people find support groups and hotline helpful when quitting smoking. Knowing that someone out there understands and shares your struggle can help you stay committed to being smoke-free. These organizations may offer personalized help or listings of classes and support groups in your community.
- American Cancer Society
Toll-free hotline: 1-800-ACS-2345 (1-800-227-2345)
- American Lung Association
Toll-free hotline: 1-800-LUNGUSA (1-800-586-4872)
- MedLine Plus – Local Smoking Cessation Resources (from the National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health)
- National Cancer Institute
Toll-free hotline: 1-877-44U-QUIT (1-877-448-7848)
- National Institutes of Health – Clinical Trials on Smoking Cessation
- National Network of Tobacco Cessation Quitlines
Toll-free hotline: 1-800-QUITNOW (1-800-784-8669)