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Cardiac

Smoking & Alcohol

Smoking

There is a lot written about the detrimental effects of smoking, and the general advice is not to start smoking or try to give up as early as possible in life, to prevent long-term complications. If you are waiting for heart surgery it's even more important that you give up, as smoking around the time of an operation seriously increases your risks of complications.

Smoking can:

  • Increase your heart rate and put it under severe strain
  • Decrease your oxygen uptake and therefore increase breathlessness
  • Increase your blood pressure
  • Introduce poisons into your body
  • Damage your arteries
  • Increase the risk of heart attack or stroke. In general, people who smoke cigarettes have about twice as great a risk of a heart attack as people who don't
  • Be associated with the formation of blood clots in the coronary arteries, chronic bronchitis, emphysema and different types of cancer such as lung, mouth and stomach cancer.

You can find out more information here. Talk to your team if you would like help giving up smoking.

Alcohol

The recommended alcohol intake is no more than fourteen units a week for men and women, spread throughout the week. It's important that you know what units there are in different drinks. You can find examples here. You shouldn't have more than one or two alcoholic drinks at one time, especially if you take warfarin, as alcohol can interact with this medication. Alcohol can interfere with the absorption of some medication or prevent them from working effectively and may lead to heart rhythm abnormalities.

It is advisable not to binge drink - i.e. go out one or two nights a week, consume large amounts of alcohol and get drunk. It has many harmful effects - your liver may not cope, you may vomit a large amount and not absorb your medication. Large amounts of alcohol can cause your heart to beat rapidly or abnormally, cause heart failure due to the large volume of fluid and it can increase the risk of blood clots. Binge drinking can contribute to accidents, violence, poor social behaviour, 'lost' days and unsafe sex. More information and support can be found here.

Recreational drugs

Drugs are powerful chemicals that can change how you think, feel and behave. Some recreational drugs are particularly dangerous for a person with a heart condition, especially stimulant drugs such as Ecstasy and Speed as these can cause heart rhythm irregularities. Intravenous drug usage puts you at increased risk of endocarditis.

For free and confidential advice you can call the National Drugs Helpline on 0800776600 or visit 'Talk to Frank'