Avoid Smoking to Keep the Heart Healthy

Becker_Richard at deskRichard Becker, MD, director and physician-in-chief of the UC Heart, Lung and Vascular Institute, is also Mabel Stearns Stonehill Endowed Chair and Professor in the UC Division of Cardiovascular Health and Disease. Becker, a spokesman for the American Heart Association (AHA), discussed the impact of smoking and heart health as physicians recognize February as American Heart Month

What role does smoking play in heart health?

“In 2013, the World Health Organization called on governments to reduce the prevalence of smoking by a third before 2025. Doing so would save 200 million lives. This is an achievable goal, but will require a full commitment from the United States government and other highly influential organizations such as the American Heart Association and the American Lung Association working closely with states, communities and people wanting to improve their health.

The recent decision by CVS Caremark Corp. to remove tobacco products from its 7,600 pharmacies nationwide sends a very powerful message, ‘smoking and its efforts to improve the public health are not compatible.’ I fully expect that others will follow not just for merely competitive business purposes, but because it is the right thing to do.”

What can the average person do to improve heart health?

“Stop smoking or avoid starting. Avoid second-hand and even third-hand smoke. Third-hand smoke is found in the residue or extinguished tobacco products. It is part of the reason property owners don’t want people smoking in their homes and why rental car companies often ask you not to smoke in their vehicle. The cigarette residue carries nicotine levels that are not safe.

“Engage in physical activity totaling 150 minutes per week and work on keeping your weight down. Your body mass index (BMI) should be less than 25 and your diet should consist of fruit, vegetables, whole grains and low sodium foods. Total cholesterol should be less than 200mg/dL, while blood pressure should be less than 120/80mmHg and fasting blood sugar less than 100mg/dL. The most important message that I can share with the public is that cardiovascular disease is preventable, these measures are effective and early implementation even for children and teenagers is optimal.”

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