There is no doubt that smoking influences cardiovascular and overall health (negatively). This is not new, and research has proven this repeatedly. And while we invariably link smoking with lung cancer, COPD, and other medical concerns, few people realize how significantly it affects our heart.
Smoking is a leading contributor to atherosclerosis or the narrowing of arteries. Untreated atherosclerosis can lead to angina or chest pain which can ultimately cause a heart attack. Atherosclerosis can also increase the risks and symptoms of peripheral arterial disease or PAD, representing the compromised blood flow to the extremities, usually the legs. As part of the ongoing research into the effects of smoking on the arteries and heart disease in general, researchers have found that smoking cessation in patients with atherosclerosis can add up to five or even ten years to a patient’s life.
Beyond this life extension possibility, there is also the question of improving quality of life. After all, how useful is a longer life if the patient can’t enjoy that extra time?
The bottom line? Improving blood flow by quitting smoking and other improvements in lifestyle can dramatically increase patients’ quality of life.
Of course, this does not mean that patients should ignore their existing heart disease once they begin a healthier lifestyle—quite the opposite. Atherosclerosis should be treated by a knowledgeable cardiologist. In addition to lifestyle changes, some patients may require medication while others will require interventional procedures.
For patients with significant symptoms of atherosclerosis, we offer a balloon angioplasty. This interventional, same-day procedure uses advanced catheter technology to push the arterial plaque against the artery walls. Often, a stent is placed within the artery to keep the artery open. A bypass graft known as CABG may be needed for more severe occlusions. This involves taking a blood vessel from another part of the body and bypassing the narrowed part of the diseased artery.
Regardless of the severity of atherosclerosis, it is important that patients visit their cardiologists. We look forward to making an appointment for you to see one of our experienced medical team. You can contact our office to learn more and schedule a consultation.