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Smoking and heart disease

Smoking and Heart Disease | UPMC Health Plan

If I was to ask you what health problems you can expect to get from smoking, what would your top three answers be? Many people would say:

  1. Lung cancer
  2. Emphysema
  3. Chronic bronchitis

These three are easy to think of; after all, you use your lungs to smoke. But if you know someone who smoked who never developed any of those three, did they “win?” Not likely.

According to the CDC and NIH, tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable/premature death. How is it that so many smokers don’t get lung cancer, but it’s killing so many people?

Smoking causes heart disease. And heart disease is the leading cause of the death in the United States (and world).

How does smoking cause heart disease?

  • Chemicals damage the lining of blood vessels, causing inflammation.
  • That damage and inflammation causes the walls of coronary arteries to thicken, harden and gather plaque. As a result, the arteries narrow.
  • There is a dose effect: The more you smoke, the more damage you do.
  • Smoking a cigarette causes a nearly instant spike in your blood pressure.
  • Smoking causes clots to form in the blood vessels, which can lead to a heart attack or a stroke.
  • Smoking also decreases HDL (good) cholesterol.

Heart disease is not the only bad result you could encounter. In fact, there are too many to list here. If you smoke, you may be doing damage to yourself that you cannot detect yet. The best thing to do is to quit as soon as possible.

Find out if your insurance plan has incentives to quit smoking at 1-888-876-2756. Your employer may have discounts for smoking cessation products, including over-the-counter medicines like nicotine gum, lozenges, or patches. UPMC employees, for instance, can get Take a Healthy Step credits by participating in one of our many tobacco cessation programs.

Are you a UPMC Health Plan member getting ready to quit smoking? You can get information and support by calling a health coach at 1-800-807-0751. Your health coach can discuss options and resources that fit what you need.