How Does Smoking Affect Vein and Artery Health?

How Does Smoking Affect Vein and Artery Health?

When considering the dangers of smoking, most people think about the lungs or cosmetic factors such as yellow teeth and wrinkled skin. But smoking also has a detrimental impact on vein and artery health. 

The chemicals in cigarettes can negatively affect other parts of your body  in many ways. Nicotine can restrict and harden the arteries, which increases the risk of a blood clot. The added chemicals in cigarettes can thicken the blood and decrease the flow of oxygen, which means circulation in the entire body is slowed. When that happens, the likelihood of a blockage increases.

Smoking and atherosclerosis

Blood continually travels throughout the body, replenishing nutrients and oxygen. Problems arise when blood flow is restricted. The nicotine and carbon monoxide in cigarettes can cause plaque to clump and stick to blood vessel walls, which narrows the blood vessels. This process is called atherosclerosis. You may have heard of peripheral artery disease, which is when atherosclerosis occurs in arteries that supply the organs, limbs, and head. When atherosclerosis occurs in the heart, it can lead to coronary artery disease and may cause a heart attack or heart failure. 

Smoking and deep vein thrombosis

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a blood clot that typically occurs in the leg. Symptoms include swelling or pain in the area (usually the leg), red skin, discoloration of the skin, and a warm sensation. Sometimes DVT will have no symptoms at all. Because of the impact of nicotine and chemicals in cigarettes, smokers are at a much higher risk of developing deep vein thrombosis.

Finding a way to quit

Quitting smoking can be difficult, so it’s important to talk with your doctor first about the best way to start the process. Your physician will discuss the various options which may include prescription or over-the-counter medication. Many insurance carriers cover stop-quitting medications, so be sure to speak with your doctor about the different ways to quit.

Additionally, there are many support groups that can help you stay on track. Because there are different ways to quit, it’s important to find what works for you. Don’t be discouraged if your first try doesn’t work; quitting can take time, but you are not alone. Check out the many resources and options from NYS Quits here.

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