How Smoking Affects Cholesterol Levels

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How Smoking Affects Cholesterol Levels
How Smoking Affects Cholesterol Levels (Image: http://v.mercola.com)

Introduction

Smoking kills thousands of people every year. Over 400,000 people die from cigarette related illnesses every year (Center for Disease Control). Smoking affects almost every part of your body. It affects your lungs, your heart, your brain, and can even affect important numbers such as your cholesterol levels. In fact, smoking related cholesterol issues cause approximately 20 percent of smoking related deaths (A.D.A.M. Healthcare Center). 50 percent of smoking related deaths are due to heart related diseases which are also related to cholesterol levels (American Heart Association).

Process

Smoking affects your cholesterol levels by dramatically increasing your bad cholesterol (LDL), and decreasing your good cholesterol (HDL). It also increases the triglyceride (fatty lipids) levels in your blood stream. This is largely due to the chemical properties of the ingredients in most cigarettes, most notably nicotine.

Circulation

Your cholesterol levels are important to maintaining the balance in your body systems, especially your blood. As those levels become dangerous after smoking, your body suddenly becomes more prone to blood problems, such as blood clots. These blood clots can do damage, including decreasing the amount of oxygen your body is able to get through to the rest of the body. They can also break free and travel to the heart or brain. Once the blood clots reach the narrow areas in arteries, they can cause a stroke or heart attack.

Buerger's Disease

Buerger's disease is another smoking and cholesterol related problem. Only seen in smokers, this disease can affect blood circulation to such a point that blood is no longer able to reach the fingers or toes. As a result, the fingers and toes begin to die and become gangrenous. In most cases, the fingers or toes have to be amputated to prevent the spread of gangrene to the rest of the body.

Hypertension/Heart Disease

Hypertension is another cholesterol related smoking problem. As the cholesterol levels rise, so does your blood pressure. The nicotine in cigarette smoke has a profound effect on the arteries. Since nicotine is a powerful stimulant, it can cause the blood vessels in your body to constrict. Constricted blood vessels mean that your heart has to work twice as hard to pump blood through the artery. This process causes a significant rise in blood pressure. The decreased blood flow can also cause the cholesterol plaque to rupture within the blood vessel. All of these symptoms lead to the eventual onset of heart disease.

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