How Smoking Destroys Blood Circulation
True or False? Following the fracture of any bone within the human body the average length of time for a non-smoker to form 1 cm of new bone is 69.6 days as compared with 89.4 days for smokers. True, but why?
Here are a few more links to medical studies concluding that smoking makes the blood content and/or circulatory systems of smokers lousy tools for healing: Unfallchirurg 2002 Jan;105(1):76-81; Injury 2001 Jan;32(1):61-5; Ann Chir Gynaecol 1993;82(4):254-62; Clin Orthop 1999 Aug;(365):184-200; Tex Dent J 1994 Jun;111(6):21-3; Early Wrinkling - Br J Dermatol 2002 Apr;146(4):588-94; Hearing Loss - J Occup Environ Med 2000 Nov;42(11):1045-9
When we think of the damage being done to our body by smoking we tend to focus on our lungs. It's natural to do so. We can hear the wheezing, feel the cough and actually sense the gradual deterioration occurring inside. But if we're going to worry or be concerned based upon the magnitude or size of the health risk we face, then our greatest concern should be on the damage smoking inflicts upon our body's blood flow systems. Yes, smoking related circulatory disease kills far more smokers than lung cancer and the damage started with that very first puff.
Blood is a vehicle for delivering oxygen and nutrients to our body's tissues and organs. Without it they die. Our blood vessels (our circulatory system) are blood piping highways. The inside of each healthy blood vessel is coated with a thin Teflon like layer of cells that ensure smooth blood flow. Carbon monoxide from smoking or second-hand smoke damages this important layer of cells, allowing fats and plaque to stick to vessel walls. Nicotine then performs a double whammy of sorts.
First, each time new nicotine arrives in our brain it causes the body to activate its fight or flight stress defenses. This in turn causes the immediate release of stored fats into the bloodstream, fats intended to be used to provide the instant energy needed to either fight or flee the saber tooth tiger. But there is no tiger
The extra food we consumed during our big meals each day was converted to fat and stored. It was then pumped back into our bloodstream with each new puff of nicotine. It's how we were able to skip meals and what causes many of us to experience wild blood sugar swings when trying to quit. In fact, many of the symptoms of withdrawal - like an inability to concentrate - are due to nicotine no longer feeding us while we continue to skip meals.
We don't need to eat more food in order to avoid extreme blood sugar fluctuations when quitting. We need to learn to spread our normal daily calorie intake out more evenly over the entire day. We need to learn to once again feed ourselves.
The heavy blasts of stored fats released by nicotine stick to vessel walls damaged by toxic carbon monoxide. Sound bad? It gets worse. We've recently learned that nicotine itself, inside our vessels, somehow causes the growth of new blood vessels (vascularization) that then provides a rich supply of oxygen and nutrients to the fats and plaques that have stuck to damaged vessel walls. This internal nicotine vascularization (vessels within vessels) hardens a smoker's arteries and veins and further accelerates their narrowing and clogging.
We each have a rough sense of the damage we've done to our lungs but what degree of clogging has already occurred inside our blood vessels? How long do we have before our coronary arteries - that supply life giving oxygen and nutrients to our heart muscle - become 100% clogged? When it happens it's called a heart attack and the portion of the heart muscle that receives oxygen from a particular coronary artery will quickly suffocate and die. How long do we have before our carotid arteries - supplying life giving oxygen and nutrients to our brain - become 100% clogged? When it happens it's called a stroke and the portion of the brain serviced by the artery suffocates and dies.
The damage being done isn't just to the vessels supplying blood to our heart and brain. It's occurring, to one degree or another, inside every vessel in a smoker's body. It affects everything from blood vessels associated with hearing, to the skin's blood supply that shows itself in wrinkles, early aging, hair loss and tooth loss. Below are links to images showing varying degrees of artery clogging, followed by links that aid in understanding our body's circulatory system.
How close are your body's tissues and organs to losing their blood and oxygen supply? If curious, ask your physician to listen to your blood flow and tell you how it sounds, or to conduct other more detailed tests or exams.
Joel explains how smoking destroys blood flow
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Related WhyQuit Articles
"Smoking and Circulation""
by Joel Spitzer, Cessation Educator
"How will smoking kill you?"
by John R. Polito, Cessation Educator
by Dr. Prithwish Banerjee
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- WhyQuit.com WhyQuit is the Internet's oldest forum devoted to the art, science and psychology of cold turkey quitting, the stop smoking method used by the vast majority of all successful long-term ex-smokers.
- Nicotine Addiction 101 WhyQuit's guide to understanding nicotine dependency.
- Nicotine Cessation Topic Index An alphabetical subject matter index to more than a thousand nicotine cessation articles, videos and support group discussions.
- Joel's Library Joel Spitzer began presenting stop smoking clinics and seminars in 1976. WhyQuit's education director since 2000, Joel's Library is home to his life's work. It includes Joel's "Daily Quitting Lesson Guide." The Guide walks new quitters through the first two weeks of smoking cessation, recommending daily videos to watch and articles to read. It's also home to more than a hundred original short stop smoking articles, to "Never Take Another Puff," Joel's free ebook, and to his ever growing collection of more than 400 video stop smoking lessons.
- Joel's Stop Smoking Video Index An alphabetical index to Joel's 400 videos. Each link opens a webpage where Joel shares the video together with related articles and links.
- "Freedom from Nicotine - The Journey Home" Written by John R. Polito, a former 30-year heavy smoker and WhyQuit's 1999 founder, Freedom from Nicotine shares the science underlying nicotine dependency and successful abrupt nicotine cessation. Whether hooked on cigarettes, e-cigarettes (e-cigs), bidis, kreteks, a pipe, hookah or cigars, on dip, chew, snuff or snus, or on the nicotine gum, lozenge, spray, inhaler or patch, the book provides a road-map home.
- Turkeyville Imagine surrounding yourself with more than 10,000 cold turkey quitters. Turkeyville is a Facebook support group exclusively for cold turkey quitters. The group's primary focus is helping newbies navigate the first few days. Just that first brave step, yes you can!
- Freedom Freedom was WhyQuit's original 1999 stop smoking support group. No longer accepting members, today Freedom's 453,000 archived member posts serve as a valuable source of recovery insight and understanding.