One of the reasons why smoking ups the risk of heart disease and stroke is because it can cause serious damage to the arteries, which only gets worse with time. The arteries become so stiff that it precipitates life threatening heart disease and stroke.
Dr. Stella Daskalopoulou, an internal medicine and vascular medicine specialist at McGill University Health Center in Montreal, conducted a study with 10 smokers and 10 non-smokers aged between 10 and 30 years. On an average the smokers consumed about 5-6 cigarettes each day.
For the study, the smokers had to abstain from smoking for 12 hours prior to their first test. Before the second exercise they were allowed to have one cigarette. A nicotine gum was given to the smokers before the final test.
The findings revealed that arterial stiffness in non-smokers reduced by 3.6 percent, whereas arterial stiffness of smokers went up by 2.2 percent. Arterial stiffness of smokers went up by 12.6 percent after chewing nicotine gum and 24.5 percent smoking a cigarette.
Daskalopoulou said, "In effect, this means that even light smoking in otherwise young healthy people can damage the arteries, compromising the ability of their bodies to cope with physical stress, such as climbing a set of stairs or running to catch a bus. It seems that this compromise to respond to physical stress occurs first, before the damage of the arteries becomes evident at rest."