Question: What is the relationship between smoking and heart disease?
Answer: Smoking is perhaps the most potent risk factor for heart disease -- for coronary heart disease in particular. Now, cigarette smoke has maybe 5,000 different chemical compounds, and 60 perhaps are identified as being particularly toxic. In regard to heart disease, these toxins can float within the blood and accelerate the hardening of the arteries, put people at a greater risk for having heart attacks, and ultimately, sudden death, heart failure, a wide variety of problems, so there's really little controversy about this.
The issue also is one of passive smoking, or the idea that the side stream smoke as it fills rooms so people get exposed to that, that also can cause a hazard. So when we think about heart disease, and we think about risk factors, we think about smoking as being sort of the number one modifiable risk factor that we push hard to get people to change if they're smokers, and we try to convince people not to take up if they're particularly young people who may be exposed to some of the advertisements or to certain inducements in our society that make people think about smoking.
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