Updated 07 July 2014

Must I really stop smoking if I have hypertension?

Put it this way: in the USA, the number of deaths caused by smoking is the equivalent of a fully loaded 747 crashing and killing everyone on board each day.


Put it this way: in the USA, the number of deaths caused by smoking is the equivalent of a fully loaded 747 crashing and killing everyone on board each day. But does it play a role in hypertension? Yes.

Smoking is one of the greatest threats to national health, but its effects are preventable. It causes a third of all cardiovascular deaths, or deaths resulting from heart attack, stroke and blood vessel damage.

It causes cancer of the lungs, larynx and mouth, and has been linked to cancer of the breast and bladder. Nicotine causes blood platelets to form clots, which can trigger a stroke or heart attacks.

Nicotine also causes constriction of the blood vessels, which increases blood pressure. It appears to reduce the effectiveness of hypertension drugs, especially beta blockers.

Because any exposure to tobacco smoke is harmful, it’s not just heavy smokers who are at risk: non-smokers and so-called social smokers who have one or two cigarettes a day will be harmed. It’s also been found that children of smokers have lung damage that makes them more likely to develop emphysaema. They also have 30 percent more chance of developing asthma than children of non-smokers.

Smokers who are in good health are three times more likely to have a heart attack than non-smokers and their chances of recovery are worse. Frighteningly, smokers with hypertension are up to five times more likely to die of heat failure than non-smokers and twice as likely to die of a stroke.

What’s the good news?
It’ll come as a relief to hear that within a year of quitting, the harmful effects of smoking have decreased considerably. The risk of heart disease drops by half, and within five years it will have decreased to that of non-smokers. After about 12 years the former smoking faces about the same risk as someone who has never smoked.

Read more:
The risk factors of hypertension


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Hypertension expert

Dr Jacomien de Villiers qualified as a specialist physician at the University of Pretoria in 1995. She worked at various clinics at the Department of Internal Medicine, Steve Biko Hospital, these include General Internal Medicine, Hypertension, Diabetes and Cardiology. She has run a private practice since 2001, as well as a consultant post at the Endocrine Clinic of Steve Biko Hospital.

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