This Way Tobacco Smoke Can Affect Your Heart

Moreover, chain smoking might also decrease the sperm's ability to fertilise eggs

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tobacco, WHO
This Way Tobacco Smoke Can Affect Your Heart. Pixabay

While the popular belief is that smoking largely affects the lungs because they get directly exposed to inhaled smoke, health experts warn that it also impacts the entire cardiovascular system.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), smoking tobacco is globally the second leading cause of heart diseases after high blood pressure. Nearly 12 per cent of cardiovascular deaths worldwide occur due to tobacco abuse and secondhand smoking.

In tobacco cigarette, there is combustion, a burning of an organic material that generates temperatures up to 900 degree Celsius. Chronic exposure to this tends to thicken blood vessels, making them weaker in the long run. This can lead to blood clots and ultimately result in stroke or peripheral heart diseases.

“Inhaling the smoke from tobacco builds fatty material — atheroma — in the heart of the smoker which then damages the inner lining of arteries and also narrows them further,” Tapan Ghose, Director & HOD, Cardiology at Fortis Flt. Lt. Rajan Dhall Hospital, told IANS.

“This narrowing can cause the angina, stroke or heart attack,” he added.

Further, the presence of nicotine in the cigarettes raises the blood pressure, which can have a detrimental effect on the heart’s oxygen balance.

Representational image.
Representational image. Pixabay

“Nicotine causes thickening of the blood vessels, which hampers the blood flow and also causes high blood pressure or hypertension,” Mukesh Goel, Senior Consultant, Cardio Thoracic & Vascular Surgery at Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, told IANS.

Tobacco also has carbon monoxide, which blends with haemoglobin in the blood more easily than oxygen does, thus affecting the oxygen supply in the body.

The carbon monoxide prevents the blood system from effectively carrying oxygen around the body, specifically to vital organs such as the heart and brain, the experts said, adding that apart from regular smokers, those who inhale the smoke passively may also be at risk.

WHO states that of the seven million lives that tobacco claims worldwide each year, almost 900,000 are passive-smokers.

Tobacco, whether smoked, swallowed, or chewed poses multiple hazards. In addition to affecting the lungs and heart, it also increases the risk of head and neck, lung, esophageal, pancreatic, and urologic cancers.

According to a recent study published in The Journal of Physiology, smoking could directly damage the muscles by reducing the number of blood vessels in leg muscles, which in turn reduce the amount of oxygen and nutrients the muscles receive.

This may impact the metabolism and activity levels.

Moreover, smoking also affects both male and female fertility, doctors said.

Representational image.
Representational image. Pixabay

“Women smoking tobacco reduce their chances of conceiving by at least 60 per cent and is also linked to ectopic pregnancy and other tubal factor infertility,” Sagarika Aggarwal, an IVF expert at Indira IVF Hospital, New Delhi, told IANS.

On the other hand, male smokers can suffer from decreased sperm quality with lower mobility and increased numbers of abnormally-shaped sperms.

Moreover, chain smoking might also decrease the sperm’s ability to fertilise eggs.

Besides causing infertility, tobacco during pregnancy can also lead to multiple issues ranging from miscarriage to under-development of the foetus and making the child susceptible to various forms of disorder such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Goel noted.

Quitting is the best way, the experts said while discouraging the use of alternatives like e-cigarettes.

“While it is true that e-cigarettes have less quantity of tobacco as compared to regular cigarettes, bidis or hookah, but they also expose lungs, heart and other organs to very high levels of toxic substances,” Goel said.

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Other measures like clinical interventions, counselling and behavioural therapies can help people quit tobacco abuse.

“Nicotine replacement therapy, including nicotine patches, gum, lozenges, inhalers etc, has been found to be effective. Combination therapy with drugs like bupropion has been found to be more effective than nicotine replacement alone,” said Viveka Kumar, Senior Director, Max Heart & Vascular Institute, Saket.

Kumar also emphasised on the role of mass media in spreading awareness about the harmful effects of tobacco, while curbing the easy access to tobacco, especially among the younger vulnerable population.

“Availability and accessibility of smoking cessation programmes to smokers who want to stop smoking remains an area which needs to be addressed,” Kumar said. (IANS)

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Number of Stroke Patients Drop By 40% in U.S. Hospitals: Indian Researchers

Even during a pandemic, it is critically important for people who may be experiencing a stroke to receive care immediately

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The findings, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, are a troubling indication that many people who experience strokes may not be seeking potentially life-saving medical care. Pixabay

The number of people evaluated for signs of stroke at the US hospitals has dropped by nearly 40 per cent during the COVID-19 pandemic, finds a study led by Indian-origin researchers.

The researchers from Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis analysed stroke evaluations at more than 800 hospitals across 49 states and the District of Columbia. The findings, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, are a troubling indication that many people who experience strokes may not be seeking potentially life-saving medical care.

“Our stroke team has maintained the full capacity to provide emergency stroke treatment at all times, even during the height of the pandemic,” said study lead author Akash Kansagra, Assistant Professor at Washington University. “Nevertheless, we have seen a smaller number of stroke patients coming to the hospital and some patients arriving at the hospital after a considerable delay,” Kansagra added.

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Nearly 800,000 people in the US experience a stroke every year. It is the fifth leading cause of death and the leading cause of long-term disability. Worried by the low numbers of stroke patients being evaluated at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and hearing similar reports from colleagues at other institutions, Kansagra – along with co-authors Manu Goyal, and statistician Scott Hamilton – set out to determine how pervasive the problem was.

When patients arrive at a hospital and are showing signs of a stroke, they often get a brain scan so doctors can identify what kind of stroke has occurred and choose the most effective treatment. Many hospitals, including Barnes-Jewish Hospital, use software known as RAPID to analyse such brain scans.

For the findings, the research team assessed how often the software was used in February, before the pandemic, and during a two-week period from March 26 to April 8, when much of the country was under shelter-in-place orders.

Heart Stroke
The number of people evaluated for signs of stroke at the US hospitals has dropped by nearly 40 per cent during the COVID-19 pandemic, finds a study led by Indian-origin researchers. Pixabay

In total, the software was used for 231,753 patients at 856 hospitals representing the district of Columbia and all 50 states except New Hampshire. During February, the software was used for an average of 1.18 patients per day per hospital. During the pandemic period, software use per hospital averaged 0.72 patients per day, a drop of 39 per cent.

According to the study, it is not limited to just hospitals in urban settings or rural communities, small hospitals or large hospitals. It is not just the old or the young or the people with minor strokes who aren’t showing up. Even patients with really severe strokes are seeking care at reduced rates. “I suspect we are witnessing a combination of patients being reluctant to seek care out of fear that they might contract COVID-19, and the effects of social distancing,” Kansagra said.

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Even during a pandemic, it is critically important for people who may be experiencing a stroke to receive care immediately, Kansagra said. The risk of delaying care for a stroke is much greater than the risk of contracting COVID-19, the researchers noted. (IANS)

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Children Who Experience Trauma and Abuse Likely to Have Heart Disease: Study

Family abuse in childhood tied to heart attacks, strokes as adult

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People exposed to the highest levels of childhood family environment adversity were more than 50 per cent more likely to have a cardiovascular disease event such as a heart attack or stroke over a 30-year follow-up. Pixabay

Parents, read this carefully. Children who experience trauma, abuse, neglect and family dysfunction are at increased risk of having heart disease in their 50s and 60s, warn researchers.

Published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, the study showed people exposed to the highest levels of childhood family environment adversity were more than 50 per cent more likely to have a cardiovascular disease event such as a heart attack or stroke over a 30-year follow-up.

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“This population of adults is much more likely to partake in risky behaviours – for example, using food as a coping mechanism, which can lead to problems with weight and obesity,” said first author Jacob Pierce from Northwestern University in the US.

“They also have higher rates of smoking, which has a direct link to cardiovascular disease,” Pierce added.

The longitudinal research of more than 3,600 participants described the trajectory of cardiovascular disease and death based on family environment ratings from young adulthood into older middle age.

Children who experience this type of adversity are predisposed to higher rates of lifelong stress, smoking, anxiety, depression and sedentary lifestyle that persist into adulthood.

children trauma heart
Children who experience trauma, abuse, neglect and family dysfunction are at increased risk of having heart disease in their 50s and 60s. Pixabay

These can lead to increased body mass index (BMI), diabetes, increased blood pressure, vascular dysfunction and inflammation, the researchers said.

The findings showed that adults who were exposed to these risk factors as children may benefit from counselling on the link between coping with stress and controlling smoking and obesity, but more research is needed.

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“Early childhood experiences have a lasting effect on adult mental and physical well-being, and a large number of American kids continue to suffer abuse and dysfunction that will leave a toll of health and social functioning issues throughout their lives,” said senior author Joseph Feinglass.

“Social and economic support for young children in the US, which is low by the standards of other developed countries, has the biggest ‘bang for the buck’ of any social programme,” Feinglass noted. (IANS)

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Sugar Filled Drinks Can Increase the Risk of Heart Diseases

Sugary drinks can increase the risk of heart disease

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Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death worldwide. Pixabay

If there wasn’t already enough reasons to stay away from sugary drinks, here’s another reason not to, sugar filled drinks can increase the risk of heart disease.

Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death worldwide and their incidence is increasing especially in young adults owing to poor dietary habits and lack of physical exercise. Among the main risk factors for cardiovascular disease are diet, high blood pressure, as well as elevated levels of blood sugar and cholesterol, notes Dr Udgeath Dhir, Director & Head, CTVS, Fortis Memorial Research Institute, Gurugram.

High sugar beverages such as sodas, energy drinks, and sports drinks are by far the biggest sources of added sugar. Other important sources include cookies, cakes, pastries, fruit drinks, ice cream, and ready-to-eat cereals. It has been found that adults who drink at least one sugary beverage, when compared with those who don’t, have a greater risk for developing dyslipidemia which can increase the risk of heart disease, Dr Dhir says. “According to a major study published in JAMA Internal Medicine, a sugar-laden diet may raise the risk of dying of heart disease even if one isn’t overweight.”

Cake and drinks
Apart from sugary drinks other important sources include cookies, cakes, pastries, fruit drinks, ice cream, and ready-to-eat cereals. Pixabay

“Consumption of sugar in excess amount leads to an increase in weight gain by tricking the body into turning off its appetite-control system because liquid calories are not as satisfying as calories from solid foods. One of the most important disadvantages of taking high sugar diet is that sugar delivers “empty calories” i.e. the calories which are unaccompanied by fibre, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. Diet high in sugar content may also stimulate the liver to push more harmful fats into the bloodstream. It has been known since long that people who consume high sugar diets have abnormal blood sugar levels and have abnormal carbohydrate metabolism, with an elevated insulin level,” he states.

He adds: “Insulin has been found to increase lipogenesis and stimulate smooth muscle cell proliferation. Hyperinsulinaemia is also an independent risk factor for CHD and insulin resistance predicts future cardiovascular risk. Increased levels of insulin and insulin resistance which is found in multiple disease including hypertension, coronary artery disease, obesity, peripheral vascular disease and those with hypertriglyceridaemia. Insulin resistance can create an imbalance in the metabolism of glucose which produces chronic hyperglycemia, and in turn triggers oxidative stress and causes an inflammatory response that leads to cell damage. This along with endothelial dysfunction, which can also be induced by aberrant insulin signalling, contribute to atherosclerotic plaque formation.”

Therefore, dietary factors that worsen glucose tolerance or promotes insulin resistance will also likely increase the risk of acute MI and cardiovascular disease related mortality, says the doctor.

Sugary drinks
It is hence advised to avoid sugary drinks. Pixabay

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Studies have shown that, compared with a diet that contains less than 10 per cent of calories from added sugars, a diet containing 25 per cent or more calories from added sugars nearly triples the risk for cardiovascular mortality.

“New research finds that sugar-laden drinks can not only increase cholesterol levels, but also reduce the amount of HDL (good) cholesterol in our bodies.”

It is obvious from the above discussion that sugary drinks at best should be avoided. It requires concerted efforts at various levels including individuals at risk, nutritionists, healthcare providers and education at schools and colleges. (IANS)