Tobacco breaks hearts

Left to right: Registered nurse Khodor Issa and patient Kassem Abdelkafi.

If you are one of the 14 people in every 100 who still smokes in Western Sydney today, you are four times more likely to die of heart disease and three times more likely to die from sudden cardiac death.

It is Australia’s single biggest killer.

‘Tobacco breaks hearts’ is the theme of this year’s World No Tobacco Day on May 31.

Kassem Abdelkafi and his family from Auburn understand the devastation of having heart disease.

“I had a heart attack in June last year which shocked my wife and three kids as I was still young at 55,” he said.

“I had to have open heart surgery four months after my heart attack.

“I started smoking 35 years ago and smoked 10-15 cigarettes a day.”

When a person chooses to smoke a cigarette, cigar or waterpipe tobacco, the amount of oxygen in the blood is reduced and blood vessel walls are damaged.

These blood vessels supply blood to the heart and other parts of the body.

Smoking also adds to the clogging of the arteries which, as with Kassem, can lead to heart attacks.

Khoder Issa, cardiac rehabilitation nurse from Auburn Hospital, has been working with Kassem to help him regain his strength, fitness and improve his health.

“We work on reducing risk factors like smoking, unhealthy eating and inactivity while our patient works on gentle to medium physical activity,” Khoder said.

Smoking is a risk factor that all patients who smoke can change.

Cardiac rehabilitation nurses can help their patients who are trying to stop smoking.

Kassem used nicotine gum to quit smoking after his heart attack last year.

“I tried to quit four times before but could never stop those last few cigarettes but the gum helped to reduce my cravings,” Kassem said.

Health Promotion Manager for Western Sydney Local Health District, Ms Christine Newman, encourages all smokers to seriously consider making a quit attempt this World No Tobacco Day.

‘Stopping smoking is the best thing you can do for your heart and overall health,” Ms Newman said.

“Your risk of a heart attack or stroke is reduced by half after your first year of being a non-smoker.

“If you remain quit, within five to 15 years, your risk returns to that of a person who never smoked.”

If you are a smoker and do not want to break hearts, see your GP, call the Quitline on 13 78 48 or visit the website for information on taking that next step to a tobacco-free life and a healthy heart.