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Occasional Smokers Face Real Risks

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Occasional Smokers Face Real Risks

Occasional Smokers Face Real Risks

October 28, 2008

By: Elizabeth Kane for Heart1

The occasional smoker may want to think again before lighting another cigarette. According to a study in the journal Ultrasound in Medicine & Biology, smoking, even occasionally, can chronically weaken vascular function. The American Heart Association lists cigarette smoking as a major cause of heart disease and many believe this is a concern for smokers addicted to nicotine. Findings of the study further alert people to the harmful effects of smoking.

Take Action
Tips to Help Stop Smoking

Replace occasional cigarettes with a piece of fruit or gum.

Work yourself into a regular exercise routine.

Become informed by looking into how cigarettes affect your body.

Cigarette smoking greatly increases the risk of coronary heart disease. One of the ways smoking contributes is the effect of fatty buildups in the arteries. When enough buildup in the arteries occurs, venous flow to the heart is restricted, leading to symptoms including chest pain and heart attack. The occasional smoker is not safe from these symptoms shown by the results of assessing vascular function.

Subjects of the study included nine male and female healthy, nonsmoking 20 to 26-year-olds making up the control group. There were also nine male and female healthy, occasional cigarette smokers in the same age range smoking less than one pack of cigarettes per week. Ultrasound measurements were used to determine the effects to the arteries in non-smoking subjects and occasionally smoking subjects. The results provide evidence suggesting that vascular function in the occasionally smoking subjects is severely impaired.

It may seem like an occasional cigarette is harmless, especially for young, otherwise healthy people. However, based on the results of this study, occasional smokers may be at a greater risk than smokers addicted to cigarettes because occasional smokers have less motivation to “quit.” There is a considerable emphasis placed on helping people quit smoking through advertisements, support groups, and over-the-counter and prescription drugs. All of this assistance is geared toward smokers not considered to be occasional smokers. Not much is done for those occasionally lighting up.

Most people know the dangers of cigarettes. One of the first that comes to mind is cancer. Cigarettes can cause lung cancer, oral cancer, larynx cancer, stomach cancer, and contribute to many other forms of cancer. Other health conditions smoking can have a hand in are heart disease, stroke, and other tobacco related complications. A very real and less obvious danger is the overlooked, harmful effect on the occasional smoker to vascular function. A cigarette here and there without knowing how damaging occasionally smoking is to arteries can result in serious heart problems and decreased overall health.

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