Cigarette Smoking Is Deadly

Cigarette smoking is a hard habit to break. It is also the leading cause of death from heart attacks and other diseases. About 1,000 Americans die each day from diseases caused by cigarette smoking. They could have prevented these deaths.

Cigarette smoke contains nicotine, tar and other poisons. Nicotine is a powerful drug. People become addicted to it. Cigarettes become a habit. The nicotine in each cigarette causes the body to change. It causes

  • the heart to beat faster
  • the blood vessels to narrow
  • the flow of blood to slow down
  • the blood pressure to increase and
  • the body temperature to drop a little, especially in the fingers and toes.
Cigarette smoke contains almost 4,000 chemicals. Among them are small amounts of DDT, arsenic and formaldehyde. Almost 90 percent of these poisons stay in your lungs after smoking a cigarette. Smokers have twice the death rate as nonsmoker. They die of lung cancer and heart attacks.

Many older people began smoking cigarettes before the dangers were well known. Cigarette ads once ran on TV and radio. TV and the movies made smoking look glamorous. No one talked about the dangers. Today we know that cigarette smoking is deadly.

The tar, nicotine and poisons in cigarette smoke can weaken the heart muscles. It also causes injury to the walls of veins and arteries. When these walls become damaged, your body will try to repair them. Cholesterol collects along the weakened area. Over time, more builds up and then there is less room for blood to flow. They call this disease atheriosclerosis or "hardening of the arteries." A blood clot may form. If a blood clot plugs an artery (coronary) in your heart, you will have a heart attack.

Fifty percent of heart patients die of their first heart attack. Breaking the smoking habit is hard to do. Quitting can save your life. Quitting is possible even if you have been smoking for 40 years or more.

Once you stop smoking cigarettes, your risk of lung cancer and heart disease will rapidly drop. If you have tried to stop and failed, get help. Programs in your city can help you stop smoking. Support groups, nicotine gums and nicotine patches can also help. The most important step toward a longer life is to stop smoking. Your goal should not only be to live a long life. It should be to live a long and healthy life.

For support groups, clinics or a Stop Smoking Guide, contact the American Cancer Society. They have a program called Smart Move at 1-800-227-2345. They have brochures on getting ready to stop smoking, developing a plan and staying clean. Why not call them today?

Prepared by Drusilla Banks, Extension Educator, Nutrition and Wellness.

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