Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health summarized over 30,000 studies that implicated cigarette smoking and nicotine as a significant cause of early death and disability in the United States.
Indeed, about 1o percent of all hospital admissions in our country can be attributed to cigarette smoking. In addition to the relation between cigarette smoking and coronary heart disease, other health problems related to cigarette smoking include various cancers (especially of the lung, mouth, throat, larynx, and bladder) and several lung diseases (such as emphysema and chronic or long standing bronchitis).
In addition, smoking can also complicate pregnancy and produce infants whose weight at birth is lower than normal. Smoking cigarettes is associated with excessive coronary heart disease risk even when other risk factors such as high blood cholesterol and hypertension are absent. When combined with other cardiovascular risk factors, cigarette smoking multiplies your risk.
If you smoke cigarettes, your HDL cholesterol will be lower than that of a nonsmoker. It is imperative that you stop smoking if your program to decrease your risk of coronary heart disease is to be successful. The more cigarettes you smoke, the greater your risk of coronary heart disease. This “dose-response” relationship is determined by the number of years you have smoked, the number of cigarettes you smoke per day, and the amount of tar, nicotine, and carbon monoxide contained in the cigarettes.
If you have switched from cigarettes to a pipe or cigars but still inhale, you are also at increased risk. In addition to the strong association between cigarette smoking and fatal and nonfatal heart attacks, workers from the Framingham Heart Study showed that those who continue to smoke after their first heart attack had an increased rate of death when they suffered their second heart attack.
If you have had a coronary artery bypass operation and you continue to smoke more than a pack a day, you have three times as great a risk of developing atherosclerosis in your bypass graft all person who doesn’t smoke. The final report of the Pooling Project Research Group, showed that middle aged men who had stopped smoking had an incidence of coronary heart disease only slightly greater than those who had never smoked.
Those who smoked over one pack a day had over three times as many heart attacks as those who had never smoked. Thus,if you stop smoking your risk of coronary heart disease decreases with time and eventually approaches that of those who never smoked.
In addition, if you smoke cigarettes, you increase your chance of developing hardening of the arteries or atherosclerosis in the blood vessels of your legs. You may have heard this condition referred to as
“poor circulation.” Doctors call it “peripheral vascular disease.” In the Oslo Heart Study, men with high blood cholesterol levels had a significant decrease in their rate of coronary heart disease when they changed to a diet low in total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol and stopped smoking cigarettes.
There is absolutely no question that these two lifestyle changes complement each other, and that making them will be of significant benefit for you. If you follow the diet i but do not stop smoking cigarettes, or alternatively if you stop smoking cigarettes without changing an excessive dietary intake of total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol, you will not achieve an optimal decrease in your risk of coronary heart disease. You can’t do anything about your family history, but smoking and diet are both in your power to change.