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The average heart beats around 115,000 times a day and is arguably one of the most essential organs of the human body. It has the daunting responsibility to tirelessly pump blood to the organs and the rest of the body every second of the day. Cigarette smoking, which is one of the leading causes of death in India, interferes with some of the most important processes of the body including the delivery of oxygen-rich blood to your heart and the rest of the body. In India, around 35% of the population are smokers with a higher incidence amongst males. 

A cigarette contains around 600 ingredients and when burned produces approximately 7000 deadly compounds, many of which are toxic and carcinogenic. Some of the chemicals, which under normal circumstances would never be consumed are, arsenic that is used in rat poison, cadmium an active component in battery acid, nicotine that is used as an insecticide, and tar the black material used for paving roads. 

Smoking affects almost every part of the body, from serious oral and dental issues starting from oral cancer, lung cancer and also the risk of other cancers, erectile dysfunction in men, infertility and pregnancy complications in women, and conditions that affect the heart, such as angina, stroke, coronary thrombosis (heart attack) and atherosclerosis (damage of coronary vasculature). Along with a string of health complications, premature aging of the skin is another noticeable change in smokers.

Dr. Sachin Chaudhary is one of the leading interventional cardiologists in Mumbai and has extensive experience in non-invasive, and invasive cardiology procedures. He is also an Associate Fellow of the European Society of Cardiology and is one of the most experienced cardiologists at Fortis Kalyan. Dr. Chaudhary explains the damages caused in our body due to smoking, “When you smoke a cigarette, the oxygen-rich blood that the heart distributes to the rest of the body becomes contaminated with the deadly chemicals from the inhaled smoke, these chemicals eventually damage your heart and blood vessels, which can make anyone a candidate for cardiovascular diseases.”

Do all smokers die from cardiovascular complications?

“In addition to the irreversible damage in your heart and blood vessels, cigarette smoking changes the chemistry of the blood which causes the build-up of plaque in the arteries. The arteries are the major blood vessels that transport blood from your heart to the rest of your body. Smoking increases the formation of plaque along the walls of blood vessels, thus leading to a condition commonly known as atherosclerosis. Smoking, over time, increases your risk of developing heart diseases, heart failure, or heart attacks, all of which can be fatal. 1 of every 3 deaths amongst smokers is due to cardiovascular diseases.”, says Dr. Chaudhary.

Are the harmful effects of smoking reversible?

Dr. Chaudhary emphasizes, “Even if you have been a chronic smoker for several years, you can start experiencing the health benefits of quitting smoking from the first few hours itself. The rate of recovery depends on the smoking history of an individual and his current health status. Just 20 minutes after your last cigarette, your pulse and blood pressure return to normal levels, imagine the health milestones you can achieve by quitting smoking. We have noticed a commendable improvement in the functioning of the lungs of smokers who quit smoking for a year, and 3 years after quitting the risk of heart attacks in smokers decreases to that of lifetime non-smokers. After 10 years, once you hit the decade mark, the risk of dying from lung cancer decreases to that of a non-smoker.”

Can your heart heal if you stop smoking?

Dr. Chaudhary enthuses, “You can do your heart a major favour by saying good-bye to smoking right now, whether you are a long-term or a new smoker. As soon as you smoke your last cigarette, your body starts to heal. Even though there are some extremely dangerous effects of being a smoker, most of these effects are reversible. When you quit smoking, the build-up of plaque deposits in the artery walls slows down, because the bad cholesterol levels decrease and the good ones start increasing, even the risk of developing blood clots reduce significantly.”

Dr. Sachin Chaudhary stresses that it is never too late to start making a difference, “Even if you have had a heart attack in the past, you can cut the risk of having a second one in half when you stop smoking. It does take a while to get used to living a smoke-free life, but with the correct guidance from your doctors and the support of family members and friends, nothing is impossible. Quitting is not just beneficial to you alone, but it also protects your loved ones around you from the dangerous health risks of secondhand smoke. This smoke is known to cause lung cancers in non-smokers as well. It is essential to protect your loved ones at all costs and ensure they don’t suffer due to your negligence.”

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