America has been successful in decreasing the prevalence of cigarette smoking over the past decade. Yet over 15 percent of Americans continue to smoke, and at a large cost to employers. An employee who smokes can cost a company up to $6,000 in medical expenses every year. It is widely known that people who smoke have a higher risk of developing lung cancer, but knowledge regarding how smoking impacts heart health is less common. Exposure to secondhand cigarette smoke increases the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, and this risk grows considerably for those who smoke.
Cigarette smoking affects blood composition. Smoking increases the level of carbon monoxide and decreases the level of oxygen in the blood, making the heart work harder to supply the body with adequate oxygen. Clinical studies show that after smoking, heart rate and blood pressure remain elevated for up to thirty minutes. Long-term exposure to cigarette smoke can damage blood vessels and lead to coronary artery disease. Blood clots are also more common in those who smoke, further increasing the risk of a stroke.
The most effective way for a smoker to reduce their risk of heart conditions is to quit smoking. There are numerous resources available for those who wish to stop smoking. Speak to your primary care physician before beginning a smoking cessation program. The American Lung Association provides information about how to quit and how to help a loved one quit smoking. For more information on how to start a smoking cessation program, please visit the American Lung Association or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention websites. Workplace smoking cessation programs can also be very successful because employees can act as mentors for one another. Wellness Workdays has helped hundreds of employees quit smoking. Have your employer contact us to learn more about our smoking cessation programs.
Written by: Leslie Lewis, Wellness Workdays Dietetic Intern