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Heart Disease and Stroke

i in 3 deaths in women are from cardiovascular disease and stroke. You can quit. CALL 1-800-QUIT-NOW.
 

What Is Heart Disease and Stroke?

Heart disease and stroke are cardiovascular (heart and blood vessel) diseases (CVDs).1

Heart disease includes several types of heart conditions. The most common type in the United States is coronary heart disease (also known as coronary artery disease), which is narrowing of the blood vessels that carry blood to the heart.2,3 This can cause:

  • Chest pain2
  • Heart attack (when blood flow to the heart becomes blocked and a section of the heart muscle is damaged or dies)2,4
  • Heart failure (when the heart cannot pump enough blood and oxygen to support other organs)2,5
  • Arrhythmia (when the heart beats too fast, too slow, or irregularly)2,6

A stroke occurs when the blood supply to the brain is blocked or when a blood vessel in the brain bursts, causing brain tissue to die.7 Stroke can cause disability (such as paralysis, muscle weakness, trouble speaking, memory loss)8 or death.

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Smoking is a major cause of CVD and causes one of every three deaths from CVD.9 Smoking can:10

  • Raise triglycerides (a type of fat in your blood)
  • Lower "good" cholesterol (HDL)
  • Make blood sticky and more likely to clot, which can block blood flow to the heart and brain
  • Damage cells that line the blood vessels
  • Increase the buildup of plaque (fat, cholesterol, calcium, and other substances) in blood vessels
  • Cause thickening and narrowing of blood vessels

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How Is Breathing Secondhand Smoke Related to Heart Disease and Stroke?

Breathing secondhand smoke also harms your health. Secondhand smoke is the smoke from burning tobacco products.9,11,12  Secondhand smoke also is smoke breathed out by a smoker.11,12

Breathing secondhand smoke can cause coronary heart disease, including heart attack and stroke.9,11,13 Know the facts:9

  • Secondhand smoke causes nearly 34,000 early deaths from coronary heart disease each year in the United States among nonsmokers.
  • Nonsmokers who breathe secondhand smoke at home or at work increase their risk of developing heart disease by 25–30%. Secondhand smoke increases the risk for stroke by 20−30%.
  • Each year, secondhand smoke exposure causes more than 8,000 deaths from stroke.
  • Breathing secondhand smoke interferes with the normal functioning of the heart, blood, and vascular systems in ways that increase your risk of having a heart attack.
  • Even briefly breathing secondhand smoke can damage the lining of blood vessels and cause your blood to become stickier. These changes can cause a deadly heart attack.

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How Can Heart Disease and Stroke Be Prevented?

Heart disease and stroke are major causes of death and disability in the United States. Many people are at high risk for these diseases and don't know it. The good news is that many risk factors for heart disease and stroke can be prevented or controlled.

The federal government’s Million Hearts® initiative aims to prevent 1 million heart attacks and strokes by 2017. It’s important to know your risk for heart disease and stroke and to take action to reduce that risk. A good place to start is with the ABCS of heart health:14

  • Aspirin: Aspirin may help reduce your risk for heart disease and stroke. But do not take aspirin if you think you are having a stroke. It can make some types of stroke worse. Before taking aspirin, talk to your doctor about whether aspirin is right for you.
  • Blood pressure: Control your blood pressure.
  • Cholesterol: Manage your cholesterol.
  • Smoking: Quit smoking, or don’t start.

In addition to your ABCS, several lifestyle choices can help protect your heart and brain health. These include the following:13,14

  • Avoid breathing secondhand smoke.
  • Eat low-fat, low-salt foods most of the time and fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Limit alcohol use.
  • Get other health conditions (such as diabetes) under control.

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Additional Resources

Brian, one of the 2016 Tips campaign participants, had a heart attack at age 35. He learned how important it was to quit—and to stay quit. By doing so, he eventually qualified for and received a precious gift—a heart transplant.

For more information about the benefits of quitting, see the American Heart Association’s Web page entitled “Why Quit Smoking?” This page provides information about smoking and coronary heart disease, including:

  • The health consequences of smoking
  • The benefits of quitting
  • A calculator that computes the monthly and yearly cost of smoking
  • A smoking quiz that tests how much you know about the dangers of smoking

For more information about organ donation, go to organdonor.gov. This Web site includes:

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References

  1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. A Report of the Surgeon General. The Health Consequences of Smoking: What It Means to You. Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2004 [accessed 2015 Nov 9].
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Coronary Artery Disease (CAD) [last updated 2015 Aug 10; accessed 2015 Nov 9].
  3. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Coronary Heart Disease [accessed 2015 Nov 9].
  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Heart Attack [last updated 2015 Aug 5; accessed 2015 Nov 9].
  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Heart Failure Fact Sheet [last updated 2013 Dec 3; accessed 2015 Nov 9].
  6. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. What is an Arrhythmia? [last updated 2011 July 1; accessed 2015 Nov 9].
  7. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Stroke [last updated 2015 Nov 3; accessed 2015 Nov 9.]
  8. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Types of Stroke [last updated 2013 Dec 6; accessed 2015 Nov 9].
  9. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Health Consequences of Smoking—50 Years of Progress: A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2014 [accessed 2015 Nov 9].
  10. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. A Report of the Surgeon General. How Tobacco Smoke Causes Disease: What It Means to You. Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2010 [accessed 2015 Nov 9].
  11. Institute of Medicine. Secondhand Smoke Exposure and Cardiovascular Effects: Making Sense of the Evidence [PDF - 707KB]. Washington: National Academy of Sciences, Institute of Medicine, 2009 [accessed 2015 Nov 9].
  12. National Toxicology Program. Report on Carcinogens, Thirteenth Edition. Research Triangle Park (NC): U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, 2014 [accessed 2015 Nov 9].
  13. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke: A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2006 [accessed 2015 Nov 9].
  14. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Million Hearts® [accessed 2015 Nov 9].  

 


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