Nicotine and other toxic chemicals in cigarette smoke cause lung-related conditions and heart disease. Quitting smoking can reduce the chances of developing cardiovascular diseases such as stroke, hypertension, and heart attack.
Smoking can increase a person’s risk of health problems in every part of the body, especially the lungs and heart. Smokers have an increased risk of high blood pressure, stroke, heart failure, and other cardiovascular diseases (CVDs).
People who inhale secondhand smoke are also at risk of heart disease. Smoking can also cause cancer and chronic respiratory conditions.
This article explains the effects of cigarette smoke on the cardiovascular system and the reasons to quit.
Cigarette smokers are
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, with around
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provide the following statistics for CVDs:
- more than 8 million Americans have heart disease
- 7 million have had a stroke
- nearly 8 million have had a heart attack
The risk of CVD increases with the number of cigarettes a person smokes per day and how many years they smoke. Choosing low-nicotine and low-tar cigarettes makes no difference to a person’s risk.
The heart needs oxygen-rich blood to work properly. When a person inhales cigarette smoke, the toxic chemicals contaminate the blood and reduce the oxygen that the heart and other body parts receive.
The chemicals cause the cells lining the blood vessels to become swollen and inflamed, leading to CVDs
- coronary artery disease
- peripheral artery disease
- abdominal aortic aneurysm
The underlying pathological process in all the conditions above is known as atherosclerosis. This occurs when plaque forms on artery walls, making them harden and narrow. This reduces the space that blood can flow through.
Plaque is a sticky
Atherosclerosis may lead to blood clots that can block the artery or travel to other parts of the body. It can lead to high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, and death.
Learn more about atherosclerosis here.
The following sections outline the CVDs that we have listed above.
Coronary artery disease (CAD) is the
Nicotine and other toxic chemicals in cigarette smoke can contribute to the narrowing and hardening of the artery walls, restricting blood flow to the heart and increasing the risk of blood clots.
Many people are unaware they have CAD until they have chest pain, a heart attack, or cardiac arrest, which is when the heart suddenly stops working.
Learn about the difference between cardiac arrest and heart attack here.
According to the CDC, about
Smoking encourages plaque buildup and clot formation, which can restrict blood flow to the brain.
Stroke can cause
- muscle weakness
- difficulty speaking
- cognitive impairment
- difficulty swallowing
Peripheral arterial disease (PAD) is often
Symptoms of PAD include discomfort, cramping, fatigue, pain, and aching in the leg and hip muscles while walking. The symptoms often improve with rest.
People with PAD often do not get a diagnosis, but if they do not receive treatment for the condition, it can lead to tissue death, gangrene, and amputation.
Smoking is a
The aorta is the major artery that distributes blood to different parts of the body. It stretches from the chest to the abdomen. An abdominal aortic aneurysm is a balloon-like bulge that forms in an area of the aorta.
Smoking can cause plaque to form on the aorta walls, making them weaker. High blood pressure can further
Female smokers die from abdominal aortic aneurysms
According to the
Quitting smoking has many other benefits,
- reduced heart rate
- reduced risk of respiratory disease
- improved lung function
- an improved sense of taste and smell
- reduced financial burden
A person should contact a doctor if they experience:
Regular smokers or former smokers may wish to have regular blood pressure monitoring. High blood pressure can be a sign of CVD.
Quitting smoking reduces a person’s risk of developing heart conditions, lung-related conditions, and cancer. The earlier a person quits smoking, the better.
Within as little as 8 hours of quitting smoking, a person’s oxygen levels begin to recover and carbon monoxide in the blood reduces by half. In addition, a person’s sense of smell and taste begins to improve after 48 hours. After about a year, the lungs are healthier, and breathing is easier.
After 8 hours
Your oxygen levels are recovering, and the harmful carbon monoxide level in your blood will have reduced by half.
Smoking and breathing in secondhand smoke can cause heart disease. Smoking causes plaque to build up in the arteries, reducing blood flow to the heart and other vital organs.
This may lead to conditions including stroke and heart attack.
Quitting smoking is the best way to avoid these heart conditions and prevent them from worsening.