More on the effects of tobacco poisoning

My recent post on tobacco poisoning focused on chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, the cause of about one-third of smoking related deaths. Let’s move on to cardiovascular disease (CVD), which accounts for another third.

When we talk about CVD, what are we taking about? The pathophysiology is very interesting…go and read.

Heart disease, which includes heart attacks and heart failure, kills about 100K smokers yearly. This includes people who have a heart attack and die suddenly, but also people who develop heart failure and linger on swollen and breathless.

Strokes kill about 16.5K smokers yearly, which doesn’t include smokers who are only disabled by strokes.

Aortic aneurysms kill about 8.5K yearly. That’s a fun one. An aortic aneurysm is a dilation of the main blood vessel that leaves the heart. When this tears or bursts it causes horrific pain in the chest or abdomen that radiates to the back. Thankfully the pain often doesn’t last long, because if the aorta actually bursts, you bleed out into your chest or abdomen very quickly.

Oh! Wait! I forgot peripheral vascular disease! Who doesn’t like gangrene? (Don’t click unless you’re ready for the gangrene picture.)

Peripheral vascular disease often starts as pain in the calves when walking, but can rapidly progress to loss of a limb. Eww.

I always tell my residents that helping a patient to quit smoking is usually the best thing you can ever do for their health. Smoking is the cause of most preventable deaths in the U.S. and causes about 20% of all deaths. It is impossible to overstate the public health menace that smoking presents. Cessation programs have become more sophisticated, as have the drugs that are available. Patients often ask me if nicotine patches are safe. My usual response is, “Well, are cigarettes safe?” There are very few bad ways to quit smoking. The first step is deciding you’re ready. Then, get educated. Resources abound.

Ach! I forgot to tell you….

Average monthly cost of cigarettes: 350 USD. That’s a whole lot of money.