dear heart no more smokingShow your heart some love this Valentine’s Day by quitting smoking! We only have one heart, so we need to treat it with all the love, care and attention we can. Quitting smoking will improve the health of your heart for many years to come.

Tobacco use is the chief cause of preventable death and disease in the U.S. and can harm every organ and cell in the body.  With over 7,000 toxic chemicals per cigarette, cigarette smoke damages one of the most vital parts of the body: the heart.1

When you breath air in, the lungs take the oxygen and deliver it to the heart, which then pumps the oxygen-rich blood to the rest of the body. When you breathe in cigarette smoke, the blood that is delivered to the rest of the body is heavily concentrated with carbon monoxide.  Carbon monoxide decreases the blood’s ability to carry oxygen which requires the heart to work much harder to pump oxygen through the body. The extra stress on the heart can cause damage to the heart and blood vessels and can lead to cardiovascular disease (CVD). CVD is responsible for 800,000 deaths annually and, consequently, is the leading cause of all deaths in the United States.1

In addition to causing damage to the heart and blood vessels directly, cigarette smoke can also cause CVD by changing the blood’s chemistry, which results in thickened blood and plaque build-up in the walls of arteries. When this happens, it becomes difficult for blood to flow through the arteries and for blood vessels to get to the vital organs, such as your heart or brain, which can result in blood clots and ultimately lead to a heart attack or stroke.1

The best way to protect your heart from smoking-related disease and death is to never start using cigarettes, but if you are smoker, the earlier you quit, the better. Quitting smoking benefits your heart and your cardiovascular system now and in the future:

  • Twenty minutes after you quit smoking, your heart rate drops.
  • Just 12 hours after quitting smoking, the carbon monoxide level in the blood drops to normal, allowing more oxygen to vital organs like your heart.
  • Within four years of quitting, your risk of stroke drops to that of lifetime nonsmokers.1

Although quitting smoking is difficult, it is certainly achievable, and cessation aids such as nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) may be able to help you on your quit journey. Many addicted smokers find that NRT helps them get through the hardest parts of quitting by lessening cravings and symptoms of withdrawal.1 GSAHEC provides NRT for free to every individual who attends a tobacco cessation class (if medically appropriate and while supplies last).

If you are a smoker and you are concerned about your heart health, contact GSAHEC today! As part of the Tobacco Free Florida AHEC Cessation Program, GSAHEC offers free tobacco cessation sessions that are available to help someone quit all forms of tobacco.  These group cessation sessions, held virtually and in-person, provide information about the effects of tobacco use, the benefits of quitting, and will assist you with developing your own customized quit plan. Free nicotine replacement therapy in the form of patches, gum or lozenges (if medically appropriate and while supplies last) are provided with the session. Attendees will also receive a participant workbook, quit kit materials, and follow up support from a trained tobacco treatment specialist. Contact us today at 866-534-7909 or visit our page to schedule a class or learn more about the program!