“Within 48 hours of quitting smoking, health benefits begin,” said Dr. Steven Leers, a member of the Society for Vascular Surgery. “Blood pressure decreases. Pulse rate drops. The body temperature of hands and feet increases. Carbon monoxide levels in the blood return to normal. The chance of a heart attack decreases. Nerve endings regrow. There’s an increase in the ability to taste and smell.”
Dr. Leers is an advocate for not smoking. Research has linked smoking to cancer, vascular disease, stroke and lung disease.
“As a vascular surgeon, I’ve seen the damage done to veins and arteries from tobacco use,” said Dr. Leers. “Nicotine speeds up the heart and causes the body to release fat and cholesterol into the blood. All of these are related to vascular disease.”
In addition, smoking accelerates the hardening and narrowing of arteries. Smokers are two to four times more likely to develop blood clots.
In the U.S., the 2011 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report “Tobacco Use: Targeting the Nation’s Leading Killer” indicates that smoking leads to 443,000 premature deaths annually from tobacco use or exposure to secondhand smoke. On average, smokers die 13 to 14 years earlier than non-smokers.
“Nicotine in cigarettes raises blood pressure and constricts arteries,” said Dr. Leers.
Narrowed arteries can result in:
- blood clots
- heart attacks (narrowed coronary artery)
- stroke (narrowed brain or neck artery)
- peripheral arterial disease (PAD) leading to gangrene and amputation (narrowed leg artery)
- erectile dysfunction for men in their 30s and 40s (narrowed artery to the penis).
“Smokers are more likely to develop aneurysms (ballooning of an artery due to a weakness in the blood vessel wall) than non-smokers,” said Dr. Leers.