The process of smoking directly involves your respiratory tract: nose, mouth, throat, and lungs; so it makes sense when you hear that smoking causes breathing and lung-related problems such as cough, wheezing, emphysema, and lung cancer. However, smoking also affects your vascular system by impairing your circulation and decreasing your body's potential to heal!
In a non-smoker, healing of a bone fracture by growing 1 cm of new bone takes 69.6 days. Yet, that same physiological process takes 89.4 days in smokers. Why is there a difference in healing rates? Healing rates are directly affected by blood flow and in smokers blood flow is impaired.
Smoking-induced circulatory disease (which is essentially damage to the blood flow systems of the body) actually causes more deaths than lung-associated diseases. Another alarming fact is that circulatory system damage starts early on in the course of smoking!
What is the circulatory system? The circulatory system is composed of our heart and all the associated pipelines that transport blood to tissues of the body and then bring them back to the heart (arteries, veins and capillaries). Blood is an important element because it carries oxygen and vital nutrients to tissues and organs. The blood vessels (pipelines) need to be clean and unobstructed on the inside to transport blood through them.
The smoke from cigarettes contains a molecule called carbon monoxide that damages the smooth tissue inside walls of blood vessels and as a result, substances such as plaque and fat can start to stick onto them. These adherent substances start to build up in the vessels and slow the transport of blood. However, carbon monoxide is not the only culprit in smoking causing circulatory disease. Nicotine is another compound that worsens circulatory disease.
Nicotine plays two roles that can greatly exacerbate circulatory disease. 1) It activates the sympathetic nervous system which is the “fight or flight” mode in our bodies – which increases blood flow and thereby forces it through the clogged vessels and 2) the “fight or flight” mode triggers a release of stored fats as a mechanism for instant energy. This increase in fats has a greater probability of attachment along blood vessels damaged by carbon monoxide and further impeding blood flow!
Do yourself a favor, it's a new year, make the resolution to quit! Even decreasing your intake of one cigarette a day or week will help to slowly whittle down your need for it! Your body will thank you!
If you think you have a vascular issue to your lower legs/ankles/feet, contact Dr. Nisha Krishnan at Beverly Hills Foot and Ankle, PA to schedule your appointment!
About the Author
Dr. Nisha Krishnan is the President of Beverly Hills Foot and Ankle, P.A. She specializes in Podiatric Medicine and Surgery and offers a full-range of foot, ankle and lower leg services.