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Stents & Smoking

By Mikel Chavers ; Updated August 14, 2017

Stents are used to open blockages and obstructions in your arteries to increase blood flow. As an alternative to invasive heart surgery, where doctors must surgically open your chest, stents are inserted by typically using a vein in your leg to gain access to the arteries around your heart. Smoking may complicate things, however.

Definition

Stents are tiny mesh metal tubes doctors insert into your arteries to literally prop up your arteries from the inside. Some stents are just made of metal, and some, called drug-eluting stents, are coated with special drugs to keep scar tissue from forming. Scar tissue inside your artery could contribute to blocking your artery again.

Smoking and Heart Disease

Smoking is the top cause for preventable diseases and deaths, according to the American Heart Association. That said, smoking contributes to heart disease conditions that stents are used to treat. By not smoking, you are removing a top risk factor for heart disease and may prevent the need for stents in the first place.

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Chest Pain

Smoking can cause plaque to build up on the walls of your arteries, called atherosclerosis, the Cleveland Clinic website reports. That clogging or hardening of the arteries can lead to blockages that restrict blood flow. Conditions associated with restricted blood flow can strain the heart, leading to severe chest pain, according to the Cleveland Clinic. While stents are not always used to treat chest pain, they are often used to treat major chest pain, called angina, according to the Mayo Clinic website.

Considerations

Smokers are at risk for peripheral arterial disease -- a specific type of atherosclerosis that results in the narrowing of the body’s arteries. The disease affects about 8 million Americans, according to the American Heart Association. Some patients with peripheral arterial disease don’t even need stents to widen their arteries, according to the American Heart Association. Often, the condition can be treated through lifestyle changes. One of the major lifestyle changes is to quit smoking, according to the association.

Lasting Results

Because stents are used to remove blockages in your arteries, quitting smoking will help make your good results last, according to the Mayo Clinic. Patients who are preparing to receive stents should quit smoking and using other tobacco products before the procedure and should continue not smoking after the procedure, according to surgeryencyclopedia.com.

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