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Editorial: Improve the health of your heart, quit chew

By: Penny McCaslin

The Cerro Gordo County Department of Public Health has been participating in Heart Health Month by giving residents information on ways to keep their heart strong and healthy. People often think of fitness and nutrition affecting heart health, but what about tobacco and nicotine?

Though smokeless tobacco use does not carry all of the same health issues as smoking, it has its own set of risks. Chewing tobacco and other smokeless tobacco products can contain approximately 30 cancer-causing substances and higher concentrations of nicotine. Nicotine alone increases your heart rate and blood pressure. Within 20 minutes of stopping chew, your blood pressure and heart rate return to normal.

While chewing tobacco can cause cancer, cavities, gum disease, and precancerous mouth lesions, it can also cause heart disease. Studies show that long-term use of smokeless tobacco increases your risk of heart disease and stroke. Studies also show that smokeless tobacco use may complicate or reduce the chance for survival following a heart attack or stroke. The longer you go without tobacco and nicotine use, the lower your risk becomes.

While some of you may think that using smokeless tobacco is an alternative or a situational substitute for smoking, you are gravely mistaken. There is no safe cigarette and no safe level of tobacco or nicotine use. Please make the commitment to quit, and start thinking about how life will look when you’re through with all forms of nicotine and tobacco use. You’ll be much healthier and happier!

If you are interested in quitting during Heart Health Month, please call Quitline Iowa at 1-800 QUITNOW and stop by the Cerro Gordo County Department of Public Health for your free quit bag (while supplies last). For more information on tobacco-free resources visit or call 641-421-9329.

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