Mar 23, 2017

Cigarettes, Second-hand Smoke, and Even E-cigarettes (aka Vaporing) Can Give You a Stroke, aka You're Playing With Fire

My mother who didn't work used to smoke a lot, notably in the bathroom where she said smoking would hide the smell of poop. (It didn't, in my opinion). She also smoked for hours on end when she was talking to "Aunt" Eleanor, her best friend. She smoked when she sat outside at night in the 1950s and 60s with the neighbors--the Craigs, the Scotts, the Lynches, the Groffs, the Baldinos--and she smoked when she was preparing every decorative, Betty Crocker-like meal, and a few cigarettes after, because she said cigarettes were relaxing. 

She most likely smoked more when we were at school. She probably smoked a pack or more of cigarettes daily for 45 years, and she didn't get cancer, or emphysema, or high blood pressure, or any--but one--of the things that smoking a pack or more of cigarettes daily for 45 years will give a person. She got a stroke.

Heart disease and stroke are often glopped together because they fall into the category of cardiovascular (heart and blood vessel) diseases (CVDs). 

In the United States, heart disease includes the most common type--coronary heart disease, which is narrowing of the blood vessels that carry blood to the heart. The narrowing can cause chest pain, arrhythmia (when the heart beats irregularly, too fast, or too slow), or heart attack (when blood flow to the heart becomes blocked and a section of the heart muscle is damaged or dies), or heart failure (failure to get the organs to survive because the heart cannot pump enough blood and oxygen).

Similarly, a stroke occurs when a blood vessel in the brain bursts (hemorrhagic stroke, which is the kind I had), causing brain tissue to die, or when the blood supply to the brain is blocked (ischemic stroke). Stroke is one of the leading causes of disability, or even death.

Smoking is one of the major causes of CVD and results in one of every 3 deaths. Smoking can: 
  1. Increase the buildup of plaque in blood vessels
  2. Cause thickening and narrowing of blood vessels
  3. Make blood thick and more likely to clot
  4. Raise triglycerides and lower good cholesterol (HDL)
Even if you don't smoke, second-hand smoke, the smoke from a smoker breathed out by burning tobacco products, harms your health, too. 


Breathing secondhand smoke can cause coronary heart disease, including heart attack and stroke. I've already told you about my mother. And my father smoked cigars. I was doomed. Here are the highlights:
  1. Each year, second-hand smoke exposure causes more than 8,000 deaths from stroke. 
  2. Nonsmokers who breathe second-hand smoke at home or at work increase their risk of developing heart disease by 25–30%. 
  3. Second-hand smoke increases the risk for stroke by 20−30%.
  4. Even briefly breathing secondhand smoke can damage the lining of blood vessels and cause your blood to dangerously thicken.
The most alarming news in a recent study has found that people using e-cigarettes may be at higher risk of a life-threatening stroke than ordinary cigarette smokers.

Why? Here's how E-cigarettes work. They work off of battery-power that when drawed on, aka inhaled, gets liquid nicotine into an inhalable vapor. The vapor doesn't have the chemicals and tars of addictive burning tobacco, and so e-cigarettes were initially considered safer than cigarettes.

But recent research at Johns Hopkins University used mice who were exposed to e-cigarette vapor for 2 weeks and were found to have greater nerve damage, and their lungs were less capable of fighting off viral and bacterial infections when compared to mice not exposed to the vapor.

One researcher said, “Vaping is not safer than tobacco smoking and may pose a similar, if not higher, risk for stroke severity. Stopping smoking is the single most important step you can take to improve your heart health."

The British Heart Foundation is funding research to find out "whether or not they are as safe as people think.” The devices are targeted at helping people quit smoking cigarettes, but they have been ironically called the “gateway to smoking.”

A study reported in February 2017 said that e-cigarettes may be just as detrimental for your heart as smoking ordinary cigarettes. The researchers observed that vapers were more likely to show signs of two key heart risk factors: increased levels of the hormone adrenaline in the heart and increased oxidative stress (an imbalance between the  oxygen and the body's willingness to detoxify or to repair the resulting damage).

E-cigarettes were introduced around 10 years ago and currently have about 9 million users.


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reveals a shocking increase in nicotine poisoning incidents, which "can be toxic, even fatal, to children even in small doses." Additionally, inhaled nicotine increases heart rate and blood pressure, one of the major causes of stroke.

The Food and Drug Administration in a remarkable move in May 2016 administered legislation extending federal authority over e-cigarettes. "This action resulted in banning their sale to anyone under 18 and requiring adults under 26 to show photo identification," The New York Times reports.

People reading my post won't necessarily stop smoking just because I said to stop. And they won't necessarily stop smoking just because some health professional told them to stop. People are funny like that. They'd probably only stop smoking when something catastrophic happens to them. Like stroke, for instance.