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How Smoking Affects Your Heart?

On the occasion of World Heart Day, let's discuss how smoking affects your heart.

Smoking is a major cause of cardiovascular illness and mortality and is widely regarded as the world's greatest preventable cause of death. According to WHO estimates, tobacco kills about 6 million people each year through heart disease, lung cancer, and other diseases.

The relationship between Heart Rate (HR) and cardiovascular health is well known. HR is a critical, non-invasive, and simple indicator of cardiac health. Regular exercise and positive lifestyle changes are known to reduce one’s resting HR and average HR which indicates good cardiac health. On the other hand, smoking is found to increase your HR thus worsening your cardiac health.

Do you know how?

Cigarettes and cigarette smoke include a variety of substances that can harm your heart and blood vessels.

Tobacco has Nicotine and Carbon Monoxide which interfere with your cardiovascular system's capacity to work properly. They constrict your blood vessels and reduce their elasticity. This limits the volume of blood that reaches your heart. This lack of blood flow to the heart disrupts the equilibrium between the demand and supply of oxygen and nutrients to the body. Moreover, carbon monoxide binds with your blood cells reducing their oxygen carrying capacity. This means, the cells in your body get even lesser oxygen. Your heart rate (HR) increases to complete the increased demand for oxygen.

The body removes 50% of Nicotine from our system after 2 hours of ingesting it. As Nicotine is a highly addictive chemical, this urges the smoker to smoke frequently. Thus, there is a high chance that Nicotine is always present in a smoker’s body.

Association between smoking and heart rate

• Effect of smoking on heart rate

Studies suggest that smokers have significantly higher heart rates than non-smokers. Regular smoking raises heart rate both in the short term (up to 20 beats per minute) and throughout the day (up to 7 beats per minute).

• Effect of smoking during exercise

Research shows that smoking reduces the rise in HR during progressive exercise, posing an increased risk to smokers’ health. When an individual performs his/her maximal exercise, the HR elevates and reaches up to the age-predicted maximum heart rate. Alternatively, a regular smoker is unable to reach more than 80% of his ideal maximum HR during high-intensity workouts.

• Smoking and heart rate recovery post-exercise

One of the purposes of a cool down after exercise is to bring the HR to the normal level. This is called heart rate recovery. It is found that the HR decline during recovery was inadequate in smokers of both sexes, but these changes were more significant in female smokers. Additionally, smoking reduces muscle recovery capacity by reducing the body’s glucose uptake.

• Cardiac medications are found to be less effective in smokers compared to non-smokers.

Thus, smoking impairs the efficient functioning of your heart in more ways than one. If you are a smoker, it's high time you take measures to keep it under control and eventually stop it. Your heart is going to thank you immensely for this.

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