Cigarette smokers are at greater risk of poor heart health due to the oxidative stress brought on by cigarette smoke in the bloodstream. After all, the lungs are in close contact with the bloodstream: each inhalation brings in air—and toxins found in smoke—that enters the blood after it passes through the lungs.
Cigarette smoking is one of the main risk factors for the development of heart disease, and for good reason. The oxidative stress from cigarette smoke produces artery damage, also known as endothelial dysfunction (endothelium is a fancy word for artery lining). To reduce endothelial dysfunction from cigarette smoke the best option, by far, is to quit. Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done for many smokers.
A recent study published in the British Medical Journal offers a look at one option for heart protection in people who smoke. In the study, 20 cigarette smokers were given 2 grams per day of omega-3 fish oil or placebo for 6 weeks. The participants who took the omega-3 fish oil were found to have reduced endothelial dysfunction and improved fibrinolysis, or the breakdown of blood clots. “These distinct but complementary measures of vascular function may represent important mechanisms through which omega-3 fatty acids confer their potential cardiovascular benefits.”
First of all, if you smoke, please try to quit. The negative effects of smoking are far-reaching, not only to you, but to the people around you. But if you can’t quit (of if you have a family member or friend who can’t quit), omega-3 fish oil may help to reduce some of the damage. Be sure to take a high-quality, concentrated fish oil for the most benefit. There is more information about how to reduce endothelial dysfunction in my new book, Heart of Perfect Health, available through my current PBS show of the same name.