Hello. This is Heart Health Tuesdays! Today, we’ll talk about how smoking causes a rise in blood pressure. As a doctor, I tell my patients that tobacco and smoking causes a rise in blood pressure. There are other factors that will increase your blood pressure such as obesity, lack of exercise, poor nutrition and moderate alcohol intake.
Damages Blood Vessels
So why does smoking cause a rise in blood pressure? Smoking injures and constricts the blood vessel walls, and speeds up the process of hardening your arteries, which ultimately increases your blood pressure. So, even though smoking doesn’t immediately increase your blood pressure it leads to the changes in your arteries that will increase your blood pressure.
Also, smoking can cause a rise in blood pressure from the nicotine. Nicotine, found in all forms of tobacco, will temporarily increase your blood pressure and elevate your heart rate with each use. It also causes a nicotine high that smokers appear to enjoy. These effects cause long term heart problems that lead to heart attacks and stroke. In fact, if you quit smoking your risk of heart attack will decrease after one year of not smoking. This means that smoking is such a potent health hazard that it takes one year for the chemical substances to clear your body to decrease your risk of heart attack.
Another way smoking causes a rise in blood pressure and negatively impacts your heart health is by adding carbon monoxide to your blood through the smoking process. This carbon monoxide takes up the space on the hemoglobin that carries oxygen in the blood system. This means that there is less oxygen available to your cells and makes the heart work harder to get enough oxygen to the rest of the body including the brain and heart.
Blood Cholesterol and Fibrinogen
Smoking also increases your blood cholesterol and fibrinogen. Fibrinogen is a factor that affects clotting of the blood. The affect on both of these factors means that a smokers blood will clot more easily and increase the risk of heart attack and stroke. This increases the risk of coronary heart disease, peripheral vascular disease, stroke and heart attack.
Damage To Lungs And Airways
Smoking also impacts other organ systems. For instance, smokers have damage to their lungs and airways. The cilia, or small hairs that keep the lungs clean, are unable to sweep away the harmful chemicals that assault the lungs each day with smoking. Eventually this damage can produce cancer or can damage the pulmonary system through chronic bronchitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and/or emphysema. This chronic damage leads to damage to the arterial system leading to pulmonary hypertension.
So, while smoking will cause not only a temporary hike in blood pressure and heart rate, it will also increase your blood pressure on a long-term basis. Those who have high blood pressure will find that smoking negatively impacts their ability to control this silent killer. Those who don’t yet have high blood pressure will find that they have an increased risk of developing this silent killer.
National Heart Lung and Blood Institute: Does Smoking Tobacco Cause High Blood Pressure
American Heart Association: Prevention and Treatmet
NHS: High Blood Pressure Prevention
SteadyHealth: Why does smoking cause a rise in blood pressure
MayoClinic: High Blood Pressure
Illinois Department of Public Health: High Blood Pressue
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I’m excited to talk about this topic today because not only do I truly believe that you have the power to reverse heart disease and lower high blood pressure to improve your health, but the science also agrees! You can adopt healthy lifestyle practices that improve your health and enrich your life, which can in turn improve the lives of those close to you. You have the power to break the cycle of these chronic diseases so that you can leave a legacy of health to your loved ones.
As you may already know, I use lifestyle medicine as the first line of treatment, before medications, to treat lifestyle-related chronic diseases. Lifestyle-related chronic diseases include diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and some cancers, just to name a few. Lifestyle practices, such as eating a whole-food plant-based diet and regular physical activity, can help you improve blood pressure and reverse heart disease. In certain cases, these approaches may even outperform pharmaceutical therapy.
Tools to Improve Heart Health
Blood Pressure Monitoring
Since weight management is very important in blood pressure control, I recommend that you be mindful of your weight and its fluctuations, and that you monitor your weight AT LEAST on a weekly basis. I recommend a scale that includes a body composition monitor.
Remember, healthy lifestyle behaviors–like eating a whole-foods plant-based diet that is low in sodium, being physically active, and stress management are the best ways to prevent and control high blood pressure. Please talk with your doctor about any complementary health approaches, including supplements, you use.
Let me know what you think in the comment section below.
PS. I am always asked what tools and resources I recommend to help you reach YOUR health goals. Here is the ever-growing, always updated list for you.
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