Every year on May 31st, the Newfoundland and Labrador Smokers’ Helpline and our partners celebrate World No Tobacco Day by highlighting the health risks associated with tobacco use and advocating for effective policies to reduce tobacco consumption. The World Health Organization’s theme for World No Tobacco Day 2018 is ‘Tobacco Breaks Hearts’ and points out the risks of smoking on your cardiovascular health.

Cardiovascular disease is the world’s leading cause of death, killing over 17 million people per year. Many people are aware of the risks of lung cancer due to smoking and secondhand smoke, yet many do not know the impacts smoking and secondhand smoke have on heart health. Tobacco use and secondhand smoke are major causes of heart disease and stroke, as well as other cardiovascular conditions, such as peripheral vascular disease, and contribute to 12% of all heart disease deaths.

Smoking and breathing in secondhand smoke contributes to the build up of plaque in the arteries, increases the risk of a blood clot, decreases the amount of oxygen in the blood, and makes the heart work harder. People who smoke are 3 times more likely to have a stroke or die of heart disease.

Newfoundland and Labrador has the highest rate of smoking of all the provinces and also has the highest rate of death due to heart disease. Tobacco use and secondhand smoke contribute to approximately 17% of deaths in Newfoundland and Labrador. This translates into about 14-16 people every week–two people dying from tobacco use every day.

Quitting smoking reduces smokers’ risk of myocardial infarction and stroke. In patients with coronary heart disease who smoke, quitting smoking has been found to reduce the risk of mortality by approximately 36%, and the risk of a non-fatal myocardial infarction by 32%.

The good news is that people who smoke can quit! Quitting smoking greatly reduces the risk of heart disease and stroke, and research demonstrates that even brief counselling by a health professional can increase the chance of quitting.

Quitting smoking can almost immediately benefit your heart health. Just 20 minutes after your last cigarette your blood pressure and heart rate can return to normal and within 24 hours your chance of a heart attack begins to decrease. After one year of being smoke-free your risk of heart disease is half that of someone who smokes. In 5-15 years of being smoke-free, your risk of a stroke and heart disease will gradually decrease to that of a non-smoker.

More good news… Even reducing the amount you smoke can help your body and is a great step towards becoming smoke-free.

Connect with the NL Smokers’ Helpline for more support and information to help you create your own quit plan.

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