While the popular belief is that smoking largely affects the lungs because they get directly exposed to inhaled smoke, health experts warn that it also impacts the entire cardiovascular system. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), smoking tobacco is globally the second leading cause of heart diseases after high blood pressure. Nearly 12 % of cardiovascular deaths worldwide occur due to tobacco abuse and secondhand smoking.
In tobacco cigarette, there is combustion, a burning of an organic material that generates temperatures up to 900 degree Celsius. Chronic exposure to this tends to thicken blood vessels, making them weaker in the long run. This can lead to blood clots and ultimately result in stroke or peripheral heart diseases.
“Inhaling the smoke from tobacco builds fatty material -- atheroma -- in the heart of the smoker which then damages the inner lining of arteries and also narrows them further,” Tapan Ghose, Director & HOD, Cardiology at Fortis Flt. Lt. Rajan Dhall Hospital, told IANS. “This narrowing can cause the angina, stroke or heart attack,” he added.
Further, the presence of nicotine in the cigarettes raises the blood pressure, which can have a detrimental effect on the heart’s oxygen balance. “Nicotine causes thickening of the blood vessels, which hampers the blood flow and also causes high blood pressure or hypertension,” Mukesh Goel, Senior Consultant, Cardio Thoracic & Vascular Surgery at Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, told IANS.
Tobacco also has carbon monoxide, which blends with haemoglobin in the blood more easily than oxygen does, thus affecting the oxygen supply in the body. The carbon monoxide prevents the blood system from effectively carrying oxygen around the body, specifically to vital organs such as the heart and brain, the experts said, adding that apart from regular smokers, those who inhale the smoke passively may also be at risk.
WHO states that of the seven million lives that tobacco claims worldwide each year, almost 900,000 are passive-smokers. Tobacco, whether smoked, swallowed, or chewed poses multiple hazards. In addition to affecting the lungs and heart, it also increases the risk of head and neck, lung, esophageal, pancreatic, and urologic cancers.
According to a recent study published in The Journal of Physiology, smoking could directly damage the muscles by reducing the number of blood vessels in leg muscles, which in turn reduce the amount of oxygen and nutrients the muscles receive. This may impact the metabolism and activity levels. Moreover, smoking also affects both male and female fertility, doctors said.
“Women smoking tobacco reduce their chances of conceiving by at least 60% and is also linked to ectopic pregnancy and other tubal factor infertility,” Sagarika Aggarwal, an IVF expert at Indira IVF Hospital, New Delhi, told IANS. On the other hand, male smokers can suffer from decreased sperm quality with lower mobility and increased numbers of abnormally-shaped sperms. Moreover, chain smoking might also decrease the sperm’s ability to fertilise eggs. Besides causing infertility, tobacco during pregnancy can also lead to multiple issues ranging from miscarriage to under-development of the foetus and making the child susceptible to various forms of disorder such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Goel noted.
Quitting is the best way, the experts said while discouraging the use of alternatives like e-cigarettes. “While it is true that e-cigarettes have less quantity of tobacco as compared to regular cigarettes, bidis or hookah, but they also expose lungs, heart and other organs to very high levels of toxic substances,” Goel said. Other measures like clinical interventions, counselling and behavioural therapies can help people quit tobacco abuse.
“Nicotine replacement therapy, including nicotine patches, gum, lozenges, inhalers etc, has been found to be effective. Combination therapy with drugs like bupropion has been found to be more effective than nicotine replacement alone,” said Viveka Kumar, Senior Director, Max Heart & Vascular Institute, Saket.
Kumar also emphasised on the role of mass media in spreading awareness about the harmful effects of tobacco, while curbing the easy access to tobacco, especially among the younger vulnerable population. “Availability and accessibility of smoking cessation programmes to smokers who want to stop smoking remains an area which needs to be addressed,” Kumar said.
Too busy or lazy to exercise? Men and women take note. Living without physical activity for six years during their middle age could be at an increased risk of suffering heart failure, researchers have warned.
The findings, described in the journal Circulation, suggest that consistently participating in the recommended 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity each week, such as brisk walking or biking, in middle age can reduce the heart failure risk by 31 per cent.
While it is known that people who are more physically active have lower risks of heart failure than those who are less active, but little is known about the impact of changes in exercise levels over time on heart failure risk.
“Going from no exercise to recommended activity levels over six years in middle age may reduce heart failure risk by 23 per cent,” said Chiadi Ndumele, Assistant Professor at the Johns Hopkins University in Maryland, US.
For the study, the team included 11,351 participants, with an average age 60, monitored annually for an average of 19 years.
According to the American Heart Association, the “recommended” amount is at least 75 minutes per week of vigorous intensity or at least 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity exercise.
Heart failure risk decreased by about 12 per cent in the participants who increased their physical activity category from poor to intermediate or recommended, or from intermediate to recommended, compared with those with consistently poor or intermediate activity ratings.
Conversely, heart failure risk increased by 18 per cent in the participants who reported decreased physical activity from visit one to visit three, compared with those with consistently recommended or intermediate activity levels.
Unlike heart attack, in which heart muscle dies, heart failure is marked by a long-term, chronic inability of the heart to pump enough blood, or pump it hard enough, to bring needed oxygen to the body.
The leading cause of hospitalisations in those over 65, the disorder’s risk factors include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, smoking and a family history.
Asthma is one of the major respiratory ailments in the world with close to 300 million people suffering from it globally.
10% of Indian population suffers from it with more and more children falling prey to the ailment.
Experts suggest that childhood asthma may have sever repercussions later on in life with some people even falling prey to heart failure in adulthood.
The study was published in the journal JACC and showed that childhood asthma may lead to thickening in the left ventricle, causing the heart muscle to lose elasticity and eventually fail to pump.
The findings also showed that the association was more prominent in patients with pre-hypertension and hypertension.
Asthma is a respiratory ailment wherein a person suffers from inflamed airways which may swell up, become narrow and begin to produce extra mucus.
An asthmatic finds it difficult to breathe and may also have an attack during stressful situations or after a physically strenuous event.
Unfortunately, the rise in air pollution is also making people prone to the respiratory disorder.
While medical intervention is the best approach to tackle asthma in the long run, some easy home remedies can help alleviate the condition.
Common ingredients that can help
1. Mulethi, commonly known as licorice root, can easily be added in green teas or simply simmered in boiling water along with some honey and ginger to sooth asthma.
2. Onions are anti-inflammatory, therefore excellent for treating the inflamed airway. Add onions in your daily diet or simply take 1/4 cup of onion juice and mix it with a teaspoon of honey and a pinch of pepper. Consume this potion twice a day.
3. Honey has long been used in most Ayurvedic preparations and herbal medicines. It plays a pivotal role in simple home remedies that can help asthmatics. Mix it with half a teaspoon of cinnamon powder and have it just before turning in to feel better.
If you’re confused about cholesterol, you’re not alone. New cholesterol guidelines from heart health experts have recently changed the way health care providers manage cholesterol. Now’s a great time to catch up — and separate fact from fiction
Myth #1: Your cholesterol level determines whether you should take cholesterol medication.
Fact: Your overall heart health risk determines whether you should take cholesterol medication.
If this myth sounds familiar, it’s because that was the old-school way of managing cholesterol. Before, if your cholesterol was high, your provider would prescribe a medication to lower it and then check your blood regularly to make sure that your LDL (“bad”) cholesterol stayed under a certain target level.
Myth #2: Statin cholesterol medications lower the likelihood of heart attack, stroke and death for anyone who takes them.
Fact: The higher your cardiovascular risk, the more you’ll benefit from taking a statin. For people with good heart health, the side effects of statins usually outweigh the benefits.Statin medications lower the likelihood of heart attack, stroke and death for people with high cardiovascular risk, regardless of their cholesterol levels.
Myth #3: A heart-healthy diet means eating less fat.
Fact: Eating healthy fat is better for your heart than eating less fat.
A heart-healthy diet means eating real food and less processed, packaged, and fast food.
It is important to provide all the possible medical care and attention required by the heart patient especially after a #stroke. And a right diet can go a long way in keeping your heart going strong.
Here are some heart friendly foods that you must include in your diet-
Known to contain a type of fibre that helps in binding bile acids and expel them from the body. These bile acids are made from cholesterol. So include more and more oats in your daily diet.
A handful of nuts daily will help keep your heart strong as they have high amounts of unsaturated fats that are good for your heart as they help in reducing inflammation of the arteries.
Rich in healthy fats, which is known Omega-3 fatty acids, fibre and phytoestrogens and all of these help in boosting heart health. It is best to soak flaxseeds or grind them before consuming for better results.
Rich sources of antioxidants, fibre and proteins. They are also a great source to get your folate requirement from and also help in increasing platelet activity.