Dangers of Cigarettes
March 2, 2018
While it’s no surprise that smoking cigarettes can kill, a new meta-analysis of more than 150 medical studies warns that smoking as few as one-to-five cigarettes per day can result in deadly cardiovascular conditions, such as coronary heart disease.
Published in the BMJ, the meta-analysis confirms that individuals who smoke one cigarette a day are at approximately half the risk for developing coronary heart disease as those who smoke twenty cigarettes per day.
Coronary heart disease is a condition in which a waxy substance called plaque accumulates inside the coronary arteries. When plaque builds up inside the arteries, it limits the amount of oxygen-rich blood able to reach the heart. The buildup of plaque inside the arteries is called atherosclerosis. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), plaque is prone to breaking apart or rupturing, which can result in blood clots, arterial narrowing or blockages. When this happens, a person can have a heart attack or stroke.
Because of the findings, the researchers behind the meta-analysis are encouraging smokers to quit smoking altogether instead of simply limiting cigarette consumption or tapering down their use. While previous recommendations may have promoted the idea that smoking fewer cigarettes creates substantially less risk, this meta-analysis proves otherwise. There is no “safe number” of cigarettes to smoke, and even having a single cigarette a day results in markedly elevated dangers for developing coronary heart disease and experiencing strokes or heart attacks.
Although the report indicates that women who smoke are at a higher relative risk for coronary heart disease and other cardiovascular events than men, both experience excessive risk from any level of smoking cigarettes. For example, the analysis concluded that men who smoke one cigarette per day are 41% more likely to experience a stroke, whereas women are 34% more likely to. In other words, anyone who smokes is in danger for serious cardiovascular events.
More than one billion people smoke cigarettes worldwide. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), men in the United States are more likely to smoke than women are, and smoking is most common in individuals between the ages of 18 and 64-years-old. Although the number of people who smoke has been declining in the last 10-15 years, more than 16 million people currently live with smoking-related diseases and conditions and at least 480,000 die from entirely preventable smoking-related illnesses annually.
Sometimes, someone becomes addicted to smoking cigarettes more quickly than he or she thought they would. When “social” smoking turns into nicotine dependence, many individuals experience a difficult time with quitting successfully. Some typical warning signs of a problematic nicotine addiction are:
- Smoking a cigarette within the first hour of waking;
- Smoking even when sick;
- Going outside in cold, rainy or otherwise uncomfortable weather to smoke, and:
- Struggling to avoid smoking in designated non-smoking areas
Some common signs of nicotine withdrawal include:
- Agitation, irritability and/or anger;
- Headaches or dizziness;
- Difficulty staying asleep, and:
- Restlessness, and:
If you smoke and have thought about quitting, it’s important not to give up. There are numerous resources out there – many of which are entirely free of charge and easy to access online. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) offer quizzes, informational articles and tips on how to quit smoking. They also offer a variety of helpful programs, like how to build a quit plan and can even connect smokers with support staff to talk to when they are struggling. If you’d like to read and learn more, please visit: https://smokefree.gov/. There are also various forms of nicotine replacement therapy and prescription medications that may help alleviate withdrawal symptoms, which individuals can discuss directly with their doctors.
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