Do you find yourself often in locations that have smoke in the air? Many places in the United States no longer allow smoking in public areas, but not all countries are as lucky. Did you know that Eight hours of exposure to other people’s smoke – at work, at home, or out with friends – is as damaging to your cardiovascular system and lungs as smoking a pack of cigarettes a day? After just 30 minutes, secondhand smoke makes platelets in the blood stream stickier and more prone to clotting. Every year, secondhand smoke causes an estimated 60,000 deaths from heart disease and 3,000 from lung cancer. If you grew up in a household with smokers, your own lung cancer risk is 3 to 11 times higher than normal. It also raises your risk for respiratory infections and even nasal sinus cancer – and could elevate your odds for cancers of the cervix, breast, and bladder.
The fallout for your cardiovascular system is even worse. When Harvard University researchers tracked the health of 32,046 non-smoking women for 10 years, they found that those who regularly breathed in other people’s smoke at home or at work were 91 percent more likely to have heart attacks than tose who weren’t exposed. Clearly secondhand smoke kills.
Cities are taking a stand. When the town of Helena, Montana banned smoking in public places in 2002, heart attack rates among residents fell 58 percent in just six months. Just as with a smoker’s, your body will begin purging the poisons and returning to a healthier state within hours after you stop breathing in smoke.
Removing yourself from smoke-filled environments results in reduced risk for heart attack. Earlier detection of COPD will also help ensure that you can receive treatments to stop lung damage. The same is true for lung cancer. Catching it early will increase your odds of successful treatment. Bonus: You’ll feel better, your clothing and hair won’t smell like smoke, and your eye won’t burn from smoke exposure. All win-wins.
Here are some ideas for stopping your exposure to secondhand smoke:
Insist that the smokers in your life step outside. There are only two ways to deal with smoke in the air: get rid of the cause of smoke or remove yourself from the location. Today, most cultures call for smokers to accommodate nonsmokers, and not the other way around. Don’t feel awkward asking the smokers among you to take it outside. If it is a family member they should care about you enough to keep the smoke away from you, and especially if there are children present in the home.
Patronize smoke-free restaurants and bars. You should choose social places where smokers don’t congregate. An increasing number of restaurants are either entirely smoke-free or segregate smokers.
Get tests if you have been extensively exposed to secondhand smoke. If there were smokers in your household when you were young, or if at any time in your life you were heavily exposed to daily smoke, talk with your doctor about screenings for lung cancer and for a breathing problem called Chronic Pulmonary disease (COPD). Your doctor might use computed tomography (CT) equipment to get a detailed picture of the interior of your lung function to see how much air you’re breathing in and out – and how much oxygen you’re absorbing.
Many of us have refrained from taking up a habit of smoking or have quit smoking, but it is also important to stay away from surrounding smoke. It is also a great time to remind those smokers around you, whom you care about, that it is not only their lives that their smoking habit is affecting but yours as well.
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