Smoking Increases Coronavirus (and Heart Disease) Risk
One of the most interesting takeaways that can be gleaned from the research on coronavirus is that lifestyle choices that negatively affect heart health are also significant risk factors for serious complications due to COVID-19. One of these, in particular, is smoking. It has been well documented over the years and decades that smoking is detrimental to heart health and long-term tobacco use is a leading risk factor for new or worsened cardiovascular disorders. Similarly, the risks of severe complications due to COVID-19 are significantly increased due to the lung damage associated with smoking.
How Does Smoking Increase Coronavirus and Heart Disease Risk?
The biggest concern of COVID-19 is not necessarily the virus itself, but the related infections that are occurring in some patients. The most dangerous of these seems to be pneumonia. When you hear of suffers having difficulty breathing, this is as a result of an infection in the lungs creating reduced lung function and follow-on disorders. Smoking may increase the risk of pneumonia and has been shown to increase the incidence of sepsis or infection in the blood. In a recently revised statement, the FDA has also stated that the risk of catching coronavirus is increased in smokers.
While most of us already know the effects of smoking on the heart, it is always worth repeating. Chemicals introduced into the body can directly damage red blood cells and even the heart. Smoking also reduces oxygen levels in the blood. This can cause significant heart problems and even organ failure amongst other concerns. Further, smoking contributes to atherosclerosis, which is the buildup of waxy plaque in the arteries. Eventually, this buildup can limit the amount of blood traveling back to the heart and cause a heart attack. If some of this plaque breaks off and travels to the brain, it can cause a stroke. It’s no wonder that 1 in 5 deaths in the US is attributed to smoking.
What About Vaping?
Unfortunately, while many vaping companies have touted their solution as a safer way to smoke, data is beginning to show that those who vape are also at heightened risk of both COVID-19 complications and ultimately, heart and lung problems. Studies show that susceptibility to respiratory infections is increased while recovery from these conditions is delayed in those who vape. Vapers are also at a higher risk of coronary artery disease and heart attack.
What About Marijuana?
With the recent legalization of marijuana in many jurisdictions, the effects of marijuana on the heart must be studied further. However, evidence shows that marijuana can increase blood pressure and cause a faster heartbeat, both of which are risky to heart patients. Further, any impurities in a marijuana cigarette can lead to damage to the lungs, blood vessels and heart amongst other things. While there is not much research on the effects of marijuana regarding COVID-19, it stands to reason that the concerns associated with smoking and vaping would also apply to marijuana.
It’s Not Too Late
Many people believe, incorrectly, that if they’ve been smoking or vaping for years or even decades, it’s simply too late to quit. This is absolutely not the case. Studies have shown that within days of quitting smoking, the lungs begin to repair themselves and heart function begins to improve. This improvement continues over time and, while the lungs and heart will likely never regain their original strength, the improvement is significant enough that it should be taken seriously. During the COVID-19 pandemic and, separately, heart disease problems at or near an all-time high, it has never been more important or more prudent to stop smoking.