World No Tobacco Day
Thursday, May 31, 2018
If you could go back in time and change history, what would you change? Sometimes, I think about this in relation to health. There are a number of events but topping the list would be the start of tobacco use. Native Americans smoked tobacco prior to colonization. However, after Native Americans gave Christopher Columbus dried tobacco as a gift; it was cultivated, traded, and used on a large scale. Fast-forward 500 plus years and the ramifications of this seemingly harmless event is clear. The disease and death caused by tobacco use has been and continues to be devastating. Every year, on May 31, the World Health Organization (WHO) and partners mark World No Tobacco Day, highlighting the health and risks associated with tobacco use, and advocating for effective policies to reduce tobacco consumption.
According to the WHO, the global tobacco epidemic kills more than 7 million people each year, of which close to 900,000 are non-smokers dying from breathing second-hand smoke. Nearly 80% of the more than 1 billion smokers worldwide live in low- and middle-income countries, where the burden of tobacco-related illness and death is heaviest. Closer to home, 17.3% of Upstate NY residents smoke and 23% of Livingston County residents light up. These numbers are important because tobacco use is a critical risk factor the development of coronary heart disease, stroke, and peripheral vascular disease. Cardiovascular diseases kill more people than any other cause of death worldwide. Tobacco use and second-hand smoke exposure contribute to approximately 12% of all heart disease deaths. Tobacco use is the second leading cause of CVD, after high blood pressure.
Sadly, many people are unaware of the correlation between smoking and heart disease and stroke. For example, the WHO references a 2009 survey in China that revealed only 38% of smokers knew that smoking causes coronary heart disease and only 27% knew that it causes stroke. So how is smoking related to heart disease and stroke? The CDC reports that smoking can:
· Raise triglycerides (a type of fat in your blood)
· Lower “good” cholesterol (HDL)
· Make blood sticky and more likely to clot, which can block blood flow to the heart and brain
· Damage cells that line the blood vessels
· Increase the buildup of plaque (fat, cholesterol, calcium, and other substances) in blood vessels
· Cause thickening and narrowing of blood vessels
In addition, secondhand smoke also can cause heart disease including heart attack and stroke. Secondhand smoke causes nearly 34,000 early deaths from coronary heart disease each year in the United States among nonsmokers.
· Nonsmokers who breathe secondhand smoke at home or at work increase their risk of developing heart disease by 25–30%. Secondhand smoke increases the risk for stroke by 20−30%.
· Each year, secondhand smoke exposure causes more than 8,000 deaths from stroke.
· Breathing secondhand smoke interferes with the normal functioning of the heart, blood, and vascular systems in ways that increase your risk of having a heart attack.
· Even briefly, breathing secondhand smoke can damage the lining of blood vessels and cause your blood to become stickier. These changes can cause a deadly heart attack.
The good news is that you can reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke. The CDC recommends starting with your ABCS.
· Aspirin: Aspirin may help reduce your risk for heart disease and stroke. However, do not take aspirin if you think you are having a stroke. It can make some types of stroke worse. Before taking aspirin, talk to your doctor about whether aspirin is right for you.
· Blood pressure: Control your blood pressure.
· Cholesterol: Manage your cholesterol.
· Smoking: Quit smoking, or do not start.
In addition to your ABCS, several lifestyle choices can help protect your heart and brain health.
· Avoid breathing secondhand smoke.
· Eat low-fat, low-salt foods most of the time and fresh fruits and vegetables.
· Maintain a healthy weight.
· Exercise regularly.
· Limit alcohol use.
· Get other health conditions (such as diabetes) under control.
If you are interested in quitting smoking, UR Medicine Noyes Health offers smoking cessation counseling and classes. For more information, contact Lorraine Wichtowski, community health educator. Connect with Lorraine at 585-335-4327 or firstname.lastname@example.org.