Monday, March 31, 2014

Nicotine Effects On Heartbeat

Not only does smoking tobacco increase your risk of developing emphysema, lung cancer or chronic bronchitis, the nicotine you get off a cigarette can actually affect your heart. This is largely due to the way in which this substance interacts with your blood vessels, often triggering an increase in your heart rate. However, the presence of nicotine in your bloodstream also can cause other changes in your body that may impact your heart.


When you smoke tobacco, or use any sort of product containing nicotine, you're actually causing your blood vessels to abnormally constrict. This essentially narrows the arterial walls, creating unneeded resistance in blood flow. As the resistance increases, your heart must work that much harder to pump blood throughout your body, raising the rate in which your heart beats to accommodate your system's need of blood, oxygen and other nutrients.


Though this may sound more like a hormonal effect of nicotine on the body, the use of tobacco products can trigger an increase of adrenaline within your bloodstream. More commonly known as epinephrine, this hormone, which is mainly responsible for the bodily reaction of "fight or flight," surges through your body as your brain is stimulated by the nicotine. This causes your heart rate to rise in preparation for the event of either fight or flight, even though the situation calls for neither.


Nicotine, as well as other chemicals found in tobacco, can eventually cause actual damage to walls of your blood vessels, especially after long-term use. This damage can eventually lead to a hardening of the arteries. And much like constriction, any change in the elasticity of your blood vessels can cause irregular resistance in blood flow, resulting in an elevation of both blood pressure and heart rate.


Going hand-in-hand with arterial damage is a rise in cholesterol. In many people, nicotine (as well as other chemicals found in tobacco) can cause a decrease in the level of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol in your bloodstream. Often referred to as "good" cholesterol, the lack of this lipoprotein in your body can cause a rise in low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. As you see an increase in "bad" cholesterol, any damage along the arterial walls can easily snag these fatty substances, causing plaque to accumulate, which narrows the blood vessel. Once the blood vessel narrows, you'll experience restricted blood flow that causes an elevation in blood pressure and heart rate.


Regardless of the effect on heart rate, the most important aspect of treatment is the cessation of smoking. You really need to eliminate nicotine from your body to ensure that other methods of treatment are effectual. If this fails to reduce your heart rate, you may need medications or surgical procedures to correct any problems that nicotine (or smoking) has caused to your arterial walls. ACE inhibitors, beta blockers, calcium channel blockers and cholesterol absorption inhibitors are probably some of the more common medications used to reduce high blood pressure or high blood cholesterol, even as a result of nicotine use. Surgeries may include a bypass of the damaged artery or the implantation of a stent to widen the affected blood vessel.

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