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The Effects Of Smoking On The Cardiovascular System

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Category: Social Issues

Autor: anton 04 March 2011

Words: 1248 | Pages: 5

I am doing my cardiovascular patient education project on the cardiovascular effects of smoking. I decided that before I could properly and honestly educate a patient on the cardiovascular effects of smoking, that I should examine my own smoking habit and educate myself. I have been a smoker on and off for a large portion of my life.

It all started when I was about 11 and one of my friends “liberated” some cigarettes from one of his parents. A small group of us went into the wooded area behind where I grew up and proceeded to try cigarettes for the first time. The cigarettes made us dizzy and nauseous, but boy did we think we were cool!

Luckily, cigarettes were not always readily available, so my smoking in my pre-teen years was extremely limited. However, sadly, when I was 12 my father passed away from colorectal cancer. My Mom and I lived alone for about a year after my father’s death and then she met and started dating the man that would become my stepfather, who was a smoker. He has since that time, thankfully, quit smoking after having triple bypass open-heart surgery.

My stepfather also had children who were older than me. One of my stepbrothers was 17 and a smoker. I was 13 by this time and fully embracing teenage rebellion and still trying to deal with my fathers passing. Cigarettes were a perfect outlet for my teen angst and my older stepbrother was more than happy to purchase cigarettes for me.

So that’s where a large portion of my allowance and money earned from odd jobs around the neighborhood went. Still though at this point I was not yet a regular smoker. Smoking was still limited to when I wanted to look cool, like when I was hanging out with my friends and my brother.

Also around this same time I started playing the guitar and a large portion of the guitar players that I saw on MTV and in music magazines were smokers. Most of the musicians that I looked up to were smokers, as well as lots of the actors in the movies at the time. In the 1980’s it still seemed cool to be a smoker.

Then when I was 15 my stepfather caught me smoking. I had somehow managed to hide my smoking from my parents for two years. My stepfather told me that he had also started smoking when he was a teenager and that since he was still a smoker he would feel like a hypocrite if he told me not to do it. He just told me that he wouldn’t buy them for me.

He even went so far as to tell his friend that managed the local convenience store near our home that it was okay to sell me cigarettes, since my parents were aware of my smoking. All of this caused my smoking to greatly escalate, because I no longer had to hide it. To make matters worse my high school had a smoking area where all the cool kids hung out.

This was the point in my life where the addictive nature of cigarettes first became apparent to me. I would crave cigarettes during my classes at school and sometimes hanging out in the smoking area seemed more important than going to class at all. Since then I have struggled with cigarette addiction for all of my adult life. I have quit several times, but I always fall back into it.

Throughout my research on the cardiovascular effects of smoking I found lots of alarming information that will cause me to once again take pause and seriously re-examine my habit. For example smoking kills more people than AIDS, murder, drugs, suicide, alcohol, and car crashes combined. Also when most people think of cigarette related deaths, they usually think of lung cancer. I found out that many more people die from the cardiovascular effects of smoking than from lung cancer. Most smokers don’t live long enough to develop and die from lung cancer.

Most smokers die from heart attacks and strokes and when they are autopsied, pre-cancerous lesions are found on their lungs, that had the stroke or heart attack not killed the victim first, then they would have died from lung cancer. Cigarettes contain two extremely toxic chemical poisons nicotine and carbon monoxide. Nicotine as we all know is a highly addictive substance, but it also causes immense damage to the cardiovascular system.

Nicotine is an intense stimulant which makes the heart beat much faster, up to an additional 20 beats per minute. It also raises the blood pressure and constricts the arteries, making the heart work much harder to pump blood and deliver oxygen and necessary nutrients to all the cells of the body. Nicotine also causes the body to release stored fats and cholesterols into the bloodstream causing build up and arterial blockages, which also cause the heart to work much harder.

In order to work, especially this hard, the heart requires oxygen. Carbon Monoxide robs the blood of much needed oxygen making the heart work even harder. This is a vicious and potentially fatal circle. Carbon Monoxide also makes the blood sticky and makes it easier for cholesterol and fat to stick to the walls of the arteries.

Cigarette smoking also significantly increases the risk of blood clots. When blood clots occur in an artery, blood can no longer get through. This means that the tissues of the area that is blocked are robbed of necessary oxygen and nutrients and death of the cells in this tissue can occur in mere minutes.

The arteries that supply oxygen to the brain are very narrow and thus very easily blocked by clots and fatty cholesterol build up. This is how strokes often happen. The part of the brain that the blood supply is blocked from suffocates from lack of oxygen and dies. This could be the part of the brain that controls basic motor skills or speech, thus rendering the victim incapable of moving their arms or legs or causing them to be unable to speak.

Buerger’s Disease is also caused by the combined effects of nicotine and carbon monoxide. This disease appears almost exclusively in smokers and occurs most often between the ages of 20-40 and while it is more common in men it also affects women. In this disease the combined effects of nicotine and carbon monoxide cause a complete cutoff of blood flow to the fingers or toes, causing gangrene to set in, and making amputation of the affected area inevitable, often resulting in the loss of a hand or foot.

Smoking causes heart attacks, strokes, high blood pressure, and a host of other problems. Secondhand smoke can also cause these problems to affect our loved ones, who also breathe the polluted air that we create. So knowing all of this, why am I still a smoker? I have all of the typical excuses such as stress, and enjoying the social aspects of smoking, but the real reason why is a question that I really need to find the answer to, because I think knowing why I smoke is the key to finding a way to quit for good, which is something I really need to do, before it kills me.

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