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Saturday, May 22, 2010

Smoking and Your Heart and Blood Vessels

Excerpt from Smoking and Your Heart from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health:

The chemicals in tobacco smoke harm blood cells and can damage the function of the heart and the structure and function of blood vessels. This damage increases your risk of atherosclerosis (ath-er-o-skler-O-sis).

Atherosclerosis is a disease in which a fatty substance called plaque (plak) builds up in the arteries. Over time, plaque hardens and narrows your arteries. This limits the flow of oxygen-rich blood to your organs and other parts of your body.

Coronary heart disease (CHD), also called coronary artery disease, occurs if plaque builds up in the coronary (heart) arteries. Over time, CHD can lead to chest pain, heart attack, heart failure, arrhythmias (ah-RITH-me-ahs), or even death.

Smoking by itself is a major risk factor for heart disease. When combined with other risk factors—such as unhealthy blood cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, and overweight or obesity—smoking further raises the risk of heart disease.

Smoking also is a major risk factor for peripheral arterial disease (P.A.D.). P.A.D. is a condition in which plaque builds up in the arteries that carry blood to the head, organs, and limbs. People who have P.A.D. are at increased risk of heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.

For the complete article visit http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/dci/Diseases/smo/smo_how.html

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