We’ve all been told before to love ourselves
How about showing a little love to our faithful bodies – especially hard-working organs like our hearts, beating tirelessly in the background behind every thought, word, and deed?
If you’re a person who smokes, all experts agree that quitting is the most valuable gift you can give yourself – and your loved ones. Here’s why.
How smoking impacts your heart, health, and the health of others
Smoking damages your heart
Not just your lungs. Your heart. And not just a little bit, either. Cardiovascular disease is one of the most deadly killers in the United States, responsible for more than 700,000 deaths every year. A staggering one in four of those mortalities is caused by smoking.
Why is smoking so hard on your heart? Because many of the 7,000 chemicals contained in cigarette smoke are known poisons. Smoke enters your body through your lungs, which then delivers contaminated oxygen to your heart.
As the heart pumps blood to the rest of the body, the toxins come along for the ride, damaging everything in their path. It’s the equivalent of introducing lower quality gas into a high-performance sports vehicle, clogging up the metaphorical pistons, valves, and fuel lines.
Heart problems wreak havoc in the rest of your body, too
Once that smoke-laden blood starts circulating through the heart, the poisons cause a wide range of health issues related to the heart. Blood vessels thicken and become more narrow due to a buildup of plaque. Blood pressure rises, resulting in hypertension. Arteries bulge or weaken, creating aneurysms and peripheral artery disease. “Good” cholesterol, known otherwise as HDL, drops. Blood becomes more viscous, making it more likely to clot.
All of these contribute to catastrophic health events like heart attacks and strokes.
Second-hand smoke harms those you love
Most people spend as much time as possible around their loved ones. That’s an issue if you smoke when you’re with them. Every year, 41,000 adult non-smokers and 400 infants die from breathing in secondhand smoke. According to the Surgeon General, just sitting in a smoke-filled room raises a person’s risk of having a heart attack.
So what’s the problem if you only indulge in one or two puffs of a cigarette around your partner, children, or grandchildren? Unfortunately, there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke.
Even brief exposure can be harmful to both adults and children, causing the potential for cardiovascular disease and other serious health issues. Children can experience increased incidences of asthma and ear infections. Those aren’t exactly the kind of “gifts” you want to give the people you care about the most.
Smoking cuts short the years you get to spend with loved ones
It’s not just your physical heart that is damaged by smoking. It’s also your emotional heart. Look at it this way. People who smoke tend to die ten years earlier than the rest of the population.
That’s an entire decade of life that will be missed out on, including the standard occurances that happen in life – graduations, weddings, anniversaries, shared adventures, and even things as simple as a baby’s first steps. It’s also a lot of extra time that your family and friends will feel heartache, and grieving for you. In other words, an early death hurts everyone’s heart.
But there is some good news. Those scary statistics about smoking are reversible once you quit.
Your health starts improving just minutes after your last cigarette
It takes only 20 minutes after your last puff for certain elements of heart health to begin returning to normal. Then things just keep getting better and better. In 12 hours, the carbon monoxide levels in your blood drop to normal.
One day later, your chances of having a heart attack have already declined. In a year, you are half as likely to contract heart disease. When you’ve been tobacco-free for four years, your risk of stroke will be the same as people who have never smoked.
No matter how long you’ve smoked, it’s never too late to quit
Do your heart a great big favor by giving up cigarettes. Hands down, it’s the most loving thing you can do – for your own heart, and for all the other hearts you care about, too. The best place to start? Look into a comprehensive tobacco cessation program that includes coaching, monitoring, a Breath Sensor, motivational tools, and a community of fellow quitters for support.