Modern India is facing the rising burden of heart diseases – No other disease kills more Indians than cardiac ailments. Heart disease has emerged as the deadliest killer in both Indian males and females. In India, nearly 52% of heart disease-related deaths occur in people below the age of 70 years.1 This increasing burden can be explained by the alarming rise in the increased prevalence of smoking – one of the major risk factors for heart disease. In the current pandemic situation, quitting smoking is the most important step as this habit increases your risk of Covid-19 infection. Most important, the mortality rates of Covid-19 are higher among patients with heart disease and other co-morbidities which are directly related to smoking. This indicates that smoking cessation should be taken as an immediate action by current smokers to keep themselves heart strong 2
Most Indians start smoking early, increasing the risk of heart disease at a young age.3 Daily cigarette smoking in India is about 6% and prevalence of smoking increases with age.In total, 63% of cigarette smokers smoke every day. On an average, tobacco use accounts for 449,844 deaths in India each year –that’s 16% of all heart disease deaths in India.4 Studies have also established a significant association of cigarette smoking with coronary heart disease and stroke.5
According to a study, cigarette smoking is associated with a two to four-fold increased risk of heart-related problems, a greater than 70% excess rate of death from heart disease. Not only this, smokers have an elevated risk of sudden death.6 It is truly remarkable that smoking – one single risk factor which is preventable – accounts for so many deaths in India. The study highlights the need for immediate action in this much-neglected field. Controlling tobacco use is extremely important to improve health outcomes among people in India. Failure to do so would result in compromised heart health of Indians.
What smoking does to your heart health
Smoking cigarette changes your blood chemistry and leads to the formation of plaque, a waxy substance comprised of fat, cholesterol, calcium, and other material in the arteries. The arteries that carry blood to the heart muscle are narrowed by plaque or blocked by clots, which leads to heart disease. Cigarette smoke contains chemicals that thicken the blood and forms clots inside veins and arteries. So, it becomes more difficult for blood cells to move through arteries and other blood vessels to the heart and other vital organs. This ultimately leads to heart attack or stroke, even death.7 So, it’s clear that the best way to reduce their risk of heart diseases and stay heart strong is to quit smoking as soon as possible.
Quitting smoking has fast-acting heart health benefits
“The harms of smoking go beyond your lungs – it’s your heart that suffers the most. Whether you smoke occasionally or you are a lifetime pack-a-day smoker, quitting gives you immediate health benefits. Even extremely light smoking — as little as one cigarette a day — can increase a person’s risk of heart attack and stroke and should be avoided. If you’re a heavy smoker with a 20-pack-a-year smoking history but decide to quit now, you can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) by 39% within five years. Just 20 minutes after you quit smoking, your heart rate drops. And as you quit smoking completely the cardiovascular system begins to heal relatively quickly,” 8 says Dr. G P Ratnaparki, Interventional Cardiologist, Mumbai
According to World Health Organization (WHO), almost 80% of premature heart diseases and strokes are preventable through timely action. Controlling risk factors such as smoking, increased blood sugar levels and obesity and exercising regularly are among the most important ways to keep you heart strong.
“Smoking has a negative effect on glucose control and it increases the risk of complications by two to four times amongst diabetics” says Dr Shubhashree Patil, Diabetologist, Mumbai.
She added, “Since diabetes is also a risk factor for heart disease, a diabetic person should avoid the additional risk contributed by smoking. A diabetic person should quit smoking in order to minimize the chances of developing diabetic complications and heart diseases. It definitely helps if one is routinely monitoring blood pressure, cholesterol levels and other risk factors to make sure these are well controlled. Weight control is extremely important during smoking cessation. The efforts should be continued even after quitting the smoking to prevent uncontrolled diabetes and minimize the risk of heart diseases”.