Smoking Connection and Cholesterol

What Is the Connection Between Smoking and Cholesterol?

By now, most people know that smoking cigarettes is bad for them. But according to the United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 45 million people in the U.S. continue to use cigarettes on a daily basis. There are many risks associated with smoking. One of the most dangerous aspects of this habit is the effect that it has on your blood vessels and heart. This is where the link between smoking and cholesterol comes into play. But before we can understand this link, we need to discuss the different types of cholesterol that are in your body.

Types of Cholesterol

There are actually two types of cholesterol. One type is good, and one type is bad. Each one is carried by a unique set of lipoproteins. First, there is the “bad cholesterol” or low-density lipoproteins. This cholesterol is also known as LDL. Having high levels of LDL is bad because this cholesterol tends to build up as plaque in your arteries. Over time, the build up can cause heart disease and subsequently, strokes or heart attacks may occur.

Next, there is HDL or high-density lipoproteins. This is “good cholesterol” because it actually goes through your arteries to clear out the bad LDL cholesterol. Unfortunately, when you smoke cigarettes on a consistent basis, this habit lowers the amount of LDL cholesterol that runs through your blood stream. In turn, low LDL gives you a higher risk for heart disease, stroke and heart attack.

Smoking, Cholesterol and Pregnancy

The tale of smoking and cholesterol continues when we discuss pregnancy. Pregnant women who smoke give higher risks for heart disease to their children. In a recent study, children who were born of mothers who smoked while they were pregnant had significantly lower amounts of LDL or good cholesterol in their blood streams. This means that pregnant mothers can pass down risks for heart attack and stroke to their babies.

Getting Your Cholesterol Under Control

If you are currently a smoker, the best way to lower your risks for heart disease, heart attack and stroke is to stop smoking. There are many ways to go about this, but a good place to start is in your doctor’s office. A doctor can prescribe aids to help you break this addiction. In addition to quitting smoking, you might also consider reducing your intake of trans fats and saturated fats. Focus your diet more on fiber-rich foods like whole grains, vegetables and fruits. Finally, make exercise a regular part of your day. Doing all of this will ensure a low HDL levels, higher LDL levels, and protection from serious heart disease.