smoking facts

- Hardening of the Arteries -
Smoking Facts About the Vascular Effects of Cigarettes

Hardening of the arteries is the common term for atherosclerosis disease.

The effects of cigarettes and the smoking facts reveal the real dangers of cigarette smoking and how it affects your blood vessels and your circulation.

hardening of the arteries

In the normal course of events your arteries are flexible and have a nice smooth lining. This lets your blood just slide smoothly through all your arteries on its way to tissues where it delivers life sustaining oxygen and nutrients.

Atherosclerosis disease causes a build up of plaque on the inside of the artery walls making them narrower and less flexible. Not only is blood flow through the arteries reduced by this but the blood flow is also more turbulent because of the rough interior lining of the artery walls.

This environment of slow and turbulent blood flow starts a cascade of physiological changes that result in blood clot formation.

Blood clots are one of the real dangers of cigarette smoking. A blood clot that gets loose and travels throughout the circulatory system is called an emboli.

Circulating blood clots get stuck in small blood vessels and cut off the vital supply of oxygen and nutrients and tissue death can result.

Tissue death in an organ is called an infarct such as in a heart attack (myocardial infarct) or a stroke (brain infarct).

If the tissue death is muscle, skin (or bone) the tissue dies. This is called tissue necrosis. If the tissue starts to actually rot this is called gangrene.

Not only is it unpleasant to think about but it doesn't smell too nice either!

smoking facts

The effects of cigarettes and the smoking facts about your circulation

The real smoking facts?

Along with other lifestyle factors such as lack of exercise and poor quality food, smoking is one of the main modifiable risk factors for hardening of the arteries.

Every organ, tissue, and cell in your body needs a constant supply of well oxygenated blood in order to maintain everything in good working order. It is the job of your arteries to make sure oxygen and nutrients get to where they are needed.

Atherosclerosis disease threatens the delivery of life giving blood and predisposes you to one of the fatal dangers of cigarette smoking which is blood clot formation. Hardening of the arteries contributes to significant mortality, morbidity and human suffering.

Here is what can happen:

  • strokes - blood clot formation in the brain can be from cerebral atherosclerosis. A blood clot from any blood vessel that travels to the brain is the most common cause of a stroke. Cerebral atherosclerosis is also one of the main causes of dementia.

  • abdominal aneurysm - the main artery in the body (the aorta) can become weakened. Because of the pressure from the heart constantly pumping out new blood the weakened area creates a balloon and can eventually rupture leading to a quick death.

  • heart disease - coronary atherosclerosis refers to atherosclerosis disease that occurs in the blood vessels that supply oxygen and nutrients to the heart muscle. Coronary atherosclerosis is one of the major risk factors for heart disease and one of the most significant causes of heart attack.

  • high blood pressure - nicotine is a vasoconstrictor and can make hypertension or high blood pressure worse. "Quit smoking cigarettes" is always at the top of the list for hypertension treatment.

  • peripheral vascular disease - when atherosclerosis disease affects the blood supply to the legs it becomes very painful to walk because the muscles cannot get enough oxygen and when muscles are deprived of oxygen they scream with pain. In extreme cases if the arteries become so narrow that blood supply to the legs is cut off then tissue necrosis (or tissue death) occurs because of lack of oxygen. In order to prevent gangrene from spreading, amputation of the limb is necessary.

  • erectile dysfunction - hardening of the arteries affects penile circulation and is now understood to be one of the main causes of impotence.

by Beverly OMalley

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Diabetes is also a risk factor for developing atherosclerosis disease. If you smoke and have diabetes, your risk for developing hardening of the arteries increases exponentially.

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