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Smoking single most important cause of premature heart attacks

Contrary to the prevalent belief, smoking is the most important cause of premature heart attacks, with India having about 4.5 crore patients with ischemic heart disease, doctors warned today on the eve of the 'World No Tobacco Day'.

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According to the World Health Organisation, tobacco use is one of the biggest public health threats worldwide which kills nearly six million people a year of whom about 600,000 are non-smokers exposed to second-hand smoke.

And the situation in India is very alarming as around 10 lakh deaths are caused by tobacco every year, with the WHO 2012 Global Report on Mortality claiming seven per cent of all deaths for people aged 30 and over in India are attributable to tobacco.

It is widely believed that tobacco use, especially smoking, causes chronic bronchitis and lung cancer, but many may not know that it is actually the most important cause of premature heart attacks. About 17.3 million people die of cardiovascular diseases and 10 per cent of the deaths are due to tobacco use, says a recent report by the World Heart Federation.

"Smoking is a major cause of atherosclerosis, a build-up of fatty substances in the arteries," said Prof Upendra Kaul, Executive Director of Fortis Escorts Heart Institute and Research Centre.

"It occurs when the normal arterial lining of the heart deteriorates, the walls of the arteries thicken and deposits of fat and plaque block the flow of blood through the arteries," he said. "If the flow of blood isn't restored quickly, the section of heart muscle becomes damaged from lack of oxygen and begins to die." Prof Kaul stressed that there is no safer form of smoking and all are equally bad.

"Every form of tobacco smoke has multiple poisons, including addictive nicotine, carbon monoxide, tar and hydrogen cyanide. Besides, there are 4,000 other chemicals of varying toxicity," he said.  

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