Health Behaviours and Heart Failures (5th of 12 posts)

Posted by Heart Niagara on

Health Behaviour #4: No tobacco smoke exposure

“Smoke exposure” includes smoking tobacco and any situation when you breath in tobacco smoke. One of the most bizarre stats from our Healthy Hearts Schools’ Program shows that around 50% of grade 9 students are exposed to tobacco smoke either by smoking, being with friends who smoke, living in homes that allow smoking inside or being around family or family friends when they smoke. This 50% number is not a one off or year of special circumstance, it is consistence through years of grade 9 data. You would think it would decrease with the decline in regional, provincial and national smoking stats. A lot of smoking is not visible to the non-smoking public anymore but within family and friend groups smoking continues behind closed doors, on personal property and in vehicles.  

Smoking has been around for centuries and only in my lifetime have governments and health professionals started to bring tobacco smoke related diseases out into the open. I can remember when patients could smoke while in their beds, doctors would smoke during your appointment, and you could smoke on airplanes. A lot has changed in government policy and health regulations to restrict smoking because the evidence is undeniable that smoking tobacco causes disease. Every smoker I see for smoke cessation knows it too. So why do people smoke and expose others to their smoke? Some people will say smoking is an appetite suppressant and helps keep them thin, others will say they smoke because of nicotine addiction, but the vast majority will say smoking helps them cope with stress and / or boredom.

Sadly, smoking is a very significant risk factor for lung disease, cancers and heart disease. There are multiple molecules in the smoke that cause the problems in different tissues. With heart disease smoke molecules are absorbed into the blood through the lungs and travel around our arteries until they get deposited in tissues, destroyed by our livers or cleaned out by our kidneys. These smoke molecules directly injure the lining of our heart arteries, endothelium, causing dysfunction and inflammation which eventually lead to plaque build up, angina and heart attacks. If caught early enough the plaques can be managed by coronary artery stenting or coronary artery by-pass surgery before heart muscle damage is caused. Ultimately, tobacco smoking will eventually lead to heart muscle damage once you have been told you have heart disease if you do not quit smoking. Smokers usually experience more heart disease within 5 years of having their first heart disease event. Preventing the next heart disease event involves the same behaviour as preventing the first heart disease event, quit smoking.

Nicotine replacement products help people to quit smoking. There are lots of these products to help you get nicotine that don’t include smoke. Smoking brand cigarettes is actually the most expensive way to get nicotine. However, none of the nicotine replacement products help with stress management. Find a way to manage your stress such as physical activity, professional help, self help like progressive muscle relaxation techniques, or whatever healthy solution that works for you. You will do so much better if you quit smoking.