Smokings Impact on the Circulatory System

Smoking , especially among women, has resulted in a significantly increased incidence of heart disease. It is well known as to the damage smoking inflicts on our lungs. Our lungs work in conjunction with our circulatory system to provide oxygen to all of the cells in our bodies. In addition, smoking has been shown to damage the heart and blood vessels that comprise the human circulatory system.

First, according to the American Lung Association, smoking tobacco is the the number one cause of lung cancer, and other diseases as emphysema and chronic bronchitis. All three impair lung function to the extent they result in diminishing the ability of the lungs to take in oxygen, resulting in less oxygen being available for transport by the blood, then distributed to the tissue by the circulatory system. Oxygen is critical to the process of cellular respiration, in which oxygen is needed to convert into energy required by cells to function. If the lungs take in less oxygen, the heart has to pump blood faster to the tissue to compensate for lower oxygen levels. In particular, the right side of the heart, which is responsible for pulmonary circulation, undergoes the greatest strain. This increased work load to the right side of the heart can result in a condition called pulmonary hypertension. This causes the right ventricle to enlarge, which could ultimately lead to right sided heart failure; a life-threatening condition.

Cigarette smoking also increases the incidence of lung infections by impairing the movement of tiny structures that line the upper respiratory tract, called cilia. These cilia sweep inhaled particles that can cause these infections away from the lungs. Smoking paralyzes ciliary movement, and results in a build-up of mucus-containing particles in the lungs, impairing lung function as well.

Second, according to the American Heart Association, cigarette smoking is the number one cause of preventable death in the world. It accomplishes this by contributing to the buildup of fatty deposits in blood vessels, a condition called atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries. Arteries supply oxygen and nutrients to all tissue in the body, including heart muscle. If the coronary arteries become narrowed or occluded by atherosclerosis, heart muscle becomes deprived of oxygen. Initially, this will cause chest pain, or angina. If left untreated, the ultimate result will be a myocardial infarction, or heart attack, in which the muscle deprived of oxygen actually dies. The human body is incapable of regenerating heart muscle, so impaired cardiac function occurs; another life threatening situation. Atherosclerosis can also lead to narrowing of blood vessels supplying oxygen to the extremities. This condition is known as peripheral vascular disease. This can result in damage to tissue in the lower extremities, in particular; resulting in persistent pain in the feet and lower parts of the legs. In severe cases, one’s feet can actually turn blue; increasing the risk of possible foot or leg amputation. Diabetics who smoke are at the greatest risk for this condition.

It is clear that cigarette smoking has a major negative impact on the circulatory system. There is one bit of good news, however: the conditions described above can often be reversed if one can stop smoking. Smokers who want to quit should contact either the American Heart Association and, or the American Lung Association for further information. The decline in health from cigarette smoking can be very long and painful.