Does Nicotine Raise Blood Pressure?
While the damage caused by cigarettes remains mainly associated with cancer, its influence on the cardiovascular system and more specifically on the worsening of blood pressure is significant. In Europe almost 25% of deaths are linked to cardiovascular deaths caused by smoke and more than 30% of them are women.
Tobacco and high blood pressure, what are the links?
There is a lot of awareness about lung cancer caused by tobacco, but less is known about the damage that cigarettes cause to the heart and blood vessels. However it is a reality that the vital organ which ensures the circulation of our blood called the heart is the first to suffer from smoking, not the lungs like many believe.
Cigarette smoke has short and long-term negative effects on the heart and blood vessels: it causes an increase in blood pressure, which prematurely wears down the heart and weakens the walls of the arteries. In people already suffering from high blood pressure smoking is an aggravating risk factor.
It is not necessary to smoke for a long time or smoke a lot for the heart to suffer from tobacco. In addition, the cardiovascular risks caused by smoking occur more quickly in younger people. Keep in mind this frightening figure: 80% of heart attack victims under the age of 45 are smokers, and tobacco is often their only risk factor.
For people who already have high blood pressure, smoking would also decrease the effectiveness of most drugs treating hypertension.
Note: cigarettes cause a relative loss of taste and smell. This can cause the smoker to switch to tastier foods, often higher in saturated fatty acids and salt, which further increases the cardiovascular risks.
The possible consequences of smoking on the heart
They can be:
Short-term: Each cigarette causes the smoker to increase blood pressure for a period of 20 to 40 minutes, and an increase of the heart rate up to 40% or more. This causes arterial narrowing which can lead to involuntary spasms explaining the rapidity of cardiovascular accidents such as infarctions or cerebrovascular accident (stroke) in some people.
In the long term tobacco leads to deterioration of the arteries.
The 5 main dangerous effects of cigarettes:
It reduces the amount of oxygen in the blood, causing shortness of breath and impaired functioning of the muscles;
It damages arteries;
It causes inflammation of the blood vessels which causes blood clots to form;
It influences blood coagulation, promoting, among other things, the formation of clots and therefore the potential trigger of a heart attack or stroke;
Smoking lowers the level of good cholesterol, a cardiovascular risk factor.
Cigarettes also have other harmful effects on women:
Women who take the pill: the combination of tobacco and the pill increases the risk of myocardial infarction by a factor of 10 and the risk of stroke by twenty;
Women who are pregnant: When a pregnant woman smokes, her child also smokes (the growth of the baby is hampered, the risks of spontaneous abortion and sudden infant death syndrome increases).
Cigarette and sport
Tobacco decreases your breathing and heart capacity during exercise because the carbon monoxide you inhale takes the place of oxygen in the blood. If you smoke before or after exercise that represents a serious risk to the heart. If you have not yet managed to quit smoking, avoid smoking in the hours before and after physical activity.
What role does carbon monoxide play?
Carbon monoxide is a molecule produced by the combustion of tobacco, which has a greater affinity than oxygen for hemoglobin. When you smoke, carbon monoxide takes the place of oxygen in the red blood cells, responsible for transporting oxygen to different tissues.
The need to quit smoking
Quitting cigarettes is effective at any age. It is a personal process that requires you to know your limits and identify risky situations.
In addition, the benefits of stopping smoking are immediate: after 20 minutes, blood pressure and heart rate return to normal. After 24 hours, carbon monoxide is eliminated from the blood, and after 48 hours, the smell, taste of food and the quality of sleep improve.
The smoker begins to perceive real benefits after three months without tobacco: the breath improves and the cough decreases. The risk of stroke is the same as that of a non-smoker after just one year!