People have been aware of the negative effects of cigarette smoking for several decades. But even with the decline in smoking that has happened since then, there are still many people who choose to smoke. In 2016, 15.5% of adults smoked in the US alone. What is estimated at 37.8 million people. If you are a tobacco user and you do it regularly, you should know that smoking causes an aneurysm. What is an aneurysm ? Read on to learn about this condition.

It is common knowledge that smoking causes lung cancer, but smoking has also been linked to:

  • Coronary heart disease
  • Emphysema
  • Chronic bronchitis
  • Reduced fertility
  • Cancer in almost all parts of the body

Aneurysms, both brain and aortic, are another health condition that causes smoking , although not many people think that aneurysms are a possible risk. But in fact the risk is very real. Aortic aneurysms were a contributing cause of 17,215 deaths in the US in 2014. Tobacco use is considered the most significant behavior associated with aortic aneurysms, and smokers are 3-5 times more likely to develop one.

Smokers are at higher risk of developing an aneurysm as they often have higher levels of cytokines, small secreted proteins that affect communications and interactions between cells. Elevated levels of inflammatory cytokines have been found in patients with abdominal aortic aneurysms, suggesting a causal relationship. Similarly, inflammation caused by cigarette smoking has been shown to play a critical role in the development of brain aneurysms.

What are aneurysms?

Aneurysms are enlarged arteries caused by a weakness in the arterial wall. Sometimes they are not dangerous, however, brain aneurysms can be life threatening. A brain aneurysm happens in the arteries that supply the brain. It often causes subarachnoid hemorrhagic strokes and can be fatal within 24 hours after it happens.

Aortic aneurysms are another type of fatal aneurysm that is located specifically in the aorta, the artery that is responsible for transporting blood from the heart through the chest and torso. They can cause a dissection, where blood leaks between the layers of the artery, or a rupture, where the aneurysm completely bursts and causes internal bleeding.

Smoking is a major factor in the development of an aneurysm

Studies have shown that women who smoke have the same, if not more, risk of developing abdominal aortic aneurysms as men who smoke. Although, the reasons why are not yet clear. However, smoking is an important factor in whether or not a woman can develop an aneurysm.

A study conducted in the southern United States of 18,792 participants over the age of 65 revealed that the difference caused by smoking was especially evident among women. Women who had quit smoking had a three and a half times greater risk of developing an aneurysm than women who had never smoked. And those who were still smokers had a nine times greater risk of developing a fatal aneurysm than those who had never smoked. Obviously, quitting smoking makes a big difference when it comes to the risk of developing an aneurysm.

How to prevent an aneurysm

Quitting smoking is the best way to prevent an aneurysm. However, it is definitely easier said than done. Nicotine, the active ingredient in tobacco, is highly addictive, making it difficult for smokers to permanently kick the habit. Fortunately, there are several nicotine replacement therapy options that can help you quit.

Some of the best nicotine replacement therapies include:

  •  Nicotine Patch: The nicotine patch works by giving you nicotine without the need for the tobacco that comes in traditional cigarettes. It’s a great replacement therapy aid that you can use if you’re not ready to quit smoking all of a sudden.
  •  Nicotine gum: Nicotine gum is another form of therapy that replaces the stimulant. Chewing gum can distract you from the fact that you are trying to quit smoking.
  • Black pepper oil: If you want to avoid using nicotine patches or nicotine gum, using black pepper oil is a viable option. According to a group of researchers, inhaling black pepper oil actually helps suppress nicotine cravings without withdrawal symptoms.

Once you’ve kicked your habit, try to encourage those around you to quit smoking as well. Inhaling secondhand smoke can cause some of the same health conditions associated with a normal smoker, especially when it comes to children.

The risk you have of developing serious health conditions when smoking, especially aneurysms, simply makes that cigarette not worth lighting. Remember, it is never too late to quit smoking and prevention is the best medicine.

By Dr. Eric Jackson

Dr. Eric Jackson provides primary Internal Medicine care for men and women and treats patients with bone and mineral diseases, diabetes, heart conditions, and other chronic illnesses. He is a Washington University Bone Health Program physician and is a certified Bone Densitometrist. Dr. Avery is consistently recognized in "The Best Doctors in America" list.

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