Tobacco use is the single most preventable cause of death in the United States according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Each year, an estimated 443,000 people die prematurely from smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke, and another 8.6 million have a serious illness caused by smoking.
But what some may not know is that in addition to cancer, smoking causes strokes. The Society for Vascular Surgery (SVS) wants people to know that smoking has a tremendous impact on arteries. Smoking cessation is one of the best things you can do for your arterial system.
The two biggest problems with cigarette smoking are nicotine and carbon monoxide. In addition to the addictive properties of nicotine, the chemical effects arteries throughout the body. As a stimulant, nicotine speeds up the heart by about 20 beats per minute with every cigarette. It raises blood pressure, is a vasoconstrictor — which means it makes arteries all over the body become smaller, making it harder for the heart to pump through the constricted arteries — and it causes the body to release its stores of fat and cholesterol into the blood.
How Strokes Occur
Smoking narrows the arteries in the brain and the arteries in the neck that lead to the brain (carotids). The vessels in the brain can become blocked, which can lead to collapse, stroke and paralysis. This is what happens in the case of a stroke.
Circulation gets cut off from the brain either through a clog or a blood clot. The section of the brain that gets cut off suffocates and dies. If the part of the brain controlled speech, patients will not be able to talk. If it controlled some form of motor function, these abilities will be lost and leave the patient impaired or crippled. If the section of the brain affected controlled some life-sustaining function, the patient may die suddenly.
If your doctor diagnoses you with conditions that may lead to a stroke, see a vascular surgeon. Today’s vascular surgeons are the only specialists who are skilled in all vascular therapies. They are comprehensively trained in medical, endovascular (minimally invasive) and surgical therapies. Vascular surgeons are the experts who provide the best diagnosis and treatment for vascular conditions.
To learn more about your vascular health and to find a vascular surgeon, visit the Society for Vascular Surgery’s website at www.VascularWeb.org.