This column appears in the Nevada Appeal’s Tuesday health pages. It addresses topics related to the health of our community.
The theme for World No Tobacco Day on May 31 is “Tobacco and Heart Disease.” Tobacco use is an important risk factor for developing diseases of the heart and blood vessels such as coronary heart disease, stroke, and peripheral vascular disease.
Diseases of the blood vessels that keep your heart healthy (cardiovascular diseases) kill more people than any other cause of death worldwide. Tobacco use and second-hand smoke exposure contribute to approximately 12 percent of all heart disease deaths. Tobacco use is the second leading cause of cardiovascular disease, after high blood pressure.
The huge number of people who use tobacco is one of the biggest public health threats the world has ever faced, killing more than 7 million people each year. More than 6 million of those deaths are the result of direct tobacco use while about 890,000 are the result of non-smokers being exposed to second-hand smoke. Tobacco costs the global economy (in US dollars) more than $1.4 trillion annually in healthcare expenditure and lost productivity.
Studies show that few people understand the specific health risks of tobacco use. For example, a 2009 survey in China revealed that only 38 percent of smokers knew that smoking causes coronary heart disease and only 27 percent knew that it causes stroke.
More than 16 million Americans have heart disease. Almost 8 million have had a heart attack and 7 million have had a stroke. Even people who smoke less than five cigarettes a day may show signs of early cardiovascular disease. Smoking cigarettes with lower levels of tar or nicotine does not reduce your risk of developing these diseases.
Exposure to secondhand smoke causes heart disease in nonsmokers. More than 33,000 nonsmokers die every year in the United States from coronary heart disease caused by exposure to secondhand smoke. Exposure to secondhand smoke can also cause heart attacks and strokes in nonsmokers
Among smokers who are aware of the dangers of tobacco, most want to quit. Counselling and medication can more than double the chance that a smoker who tries to quit will succeed.
Even though we don’t know exactly which smokers will develop cardiovascular disease from smoking, the best thing all smokers can do for their hearts is to quit. Smokers who quit will improve their heart health and reduce their risk for cardiovascular disease immediately. Within a year, the risk of heart attack drops dramatically, and even people who have already had a heart attack can cut their risk of having another if they quit smoking. Within five years of quitting, smokers lower their risk of stroke to about that of a person who has never smoked.
For free help to quit smoking, call 1-800-QUIT-NOW, go to www.smokefree.gov, or enroll in Freedom from Smoking classes at Carson Tahoe Health by calling 775-445-7651 (the next class starts June 14).
For information about services and programs available to you through Carson City Health and Human Services, please visit our website at gethealthycarsoncity.org, follow us on Facebook www.facebook.com/cchhs, or call us at 775-887-2190. You can also find us at 900 E. Long St. in Carson City.