Smoking harms almost all organs of the body, such as the heart, blood vessels, lungs, eyes, mouth, reproductive organs, bones, bladder and digestive organs. This article focuses on how smoking affects the heart and blood vessels.
Overview of tobacco smoking and heart disease
The chemicals contained in tobacco smoke damage your blood cells. They can also damage your heart and the structure and function of your blood vessels. The damage caused by tobacco smoke increases the risk of varicose veins fattening (atherosclerosis).
Atherosclerosis is a disease in which a fatty plaque builds up in the blood vessels (arteries). Over time, the plaque hardens and causes constrictions in your arteries. This limits the flow of oxygen-rich blood to your organs and other parts of the body.
Ischemic heart disease (ischemic heart disease) occurs if plaques accumulate in the blood vessels (arteries) supplying blood to the heart, these are called coronary arteries. Over time, heart disease can lead to chest pain, heart attack, heart failure, arrhythmias or even death.
Smoking is a major risk factor for heart disease. In combination with other risk factors, such as unhealthy blood cholesterol levels, high blood pressure and overweight or obesity. Smoking further increases the risk of heart disease.
Smoking is also an important risk factor for bone artery disease (peripheral artery disease). PAD is a condition in which plaque builds up in blood vessels transporting blood to the limbs. People who have bone artery disease have an increased risk of heart attack, stroke and heart failure.
No matter how much you smoke, even light cigarette smoking or temporary cigarette smoking, the heart and blood vessels hurt. For some people, such as women who use birth control pills and people who have diabetes, smoking poses an even greater risk to the heart and blood vessels.
Passive smoking can also damage the heart and blood vessels. Passive smoking means cigarette smoke exhaled by a person who smokes. Passive smoking greatly increases the risk of heart attack and death of adults.
Passive smoking also increases the risk of children and teenagers suffering from ischemic heart disease in the future.
Passive smoking causes
- Lowers HDL cholesterol (sometimes called “good” cholesterol)
- Raises blood pressure
- Damaged heart tissue and blood vessels
- Passive smoking is especially dangerous for premature babies who have respiratory syndrome (RDS) and children who have conditions such as asthma
Scientists know less about how cigarette smoke affects the heart and blood vessels than they do about cigarette smoke.
However, cigars smoke contains the same harmful chemicals as the smoke from cigarettes. Studies have also shown that people who smoke cigars have an increased risk of heart disease.
Benefits of quitting smoking and avoiding passive smoking
One of the best ways to reduce the risk of heart disease is to avoid tobacco smoke. Never start smoking. If you already smoke, stop. No matter how much or how long you have smoked, to stop will benefit you.
Also try to avoid passive smoking. Do not go to places where smoking is allowed. Ask friends and family members who smoke not to do it in the home and car.
Quitting smoking reduces the risk of developing and dying from heart disease. Over time, smoking cessation will also reduce the risk of atherosclerosis and blood clots (ie, heart attack or stroke).
If you smoke and already have heart disease, smoking cessation will reduce the risk of sudden cardiac death, heart attack and death from other chronic diseases.
Scientists have studied communities that have banned smoking in workplaces and in public places. The number of heart attacks in these communities dropped quite a bit. Scientists believe that these results are due to reduced active smoking and reduced exposure to passive smoking
The risks of cigarette smoking
Cigarette smoking or exposure to passive smoking damages the heart and blood vessels in many ways. Smoking is also a major risk factor for developing heart disease or dying from it.
Quitting smoking and avoiding passive smoking can help repair damage caused to the heart and blood vessels and reduce the risk of heart disease.
Quitting smoking is possible, but it can be difficult. Millions of people have quit smoking successfully and remained non-smokers. A variety of strategies, programs and medicines are available to help you quit smoking.
Not smoking is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. A “cardio-healthy lifestyle” also includes healthy food.
The chemicals contained in tobacco smoke damage your heart and blood vessels in the following ways:
- Contributes to inflammation, which leads to the build-up of plaques in your blood vessels (arteries).
- Damages the walls of blood vessels, making them rigid and less elastic.
- Causes narrowing of blood vessels that complicate blood flow.
- Disrupt the normal heart rhythm, can lead to irregular heartbeats.
- Increase your blood pressure and heart rate, making your heart work harder than normal.
- Lowers your HDL cholesterol (“good”) and raises your LDL cholesterol (“bad”). Smoking also increases the levels of triglycerides.
- Triglycerides are a type of fat found in the blood and contribute to cardiovascular diseases
- Thickens the blood and makes it harder for the blood to transport oxygen
The risk relationship between cigarette smoking and heart disease
Smoking is a major risk factor for ischemic heart disease, a condition in which plaques build up inside the coronary arteries. These arteries supply the heart muscle with oxygen-rich blood. When plaques build up in the arteries, the condition is called varicose thickening (atherosclerosis).
Plaque causes narrowing of the arteries and reduces the flow of blood to the heart muscle. The build-up of plaques also makes it more likely that blood clots will form in your arteries. Blood clots can partially or completely block the blood flow.
Over time, smoking contributes to atherosclerosis and increases the risk of heart disease such as heart failure, heart attack and stroke. Compared with non-smokers, people who smoke are more likely to suffer from heart disease and suffer to a greater extent from ischemic heart disease. The risk of contracting or dying from a heart attack is even higher among people who smoke and already have heart disease.
For some people, such as women who use birth control pills and people who have diabetes, smoking poses an even greater risk to the heart and blood vessels.
Smoking is a major risk factor for heart disease, especially if the person suffers from several other risk factors such as elevated blood cholesterol levels, high blood pressure and overweight or obesity, in those cases cigarette smoking further increases the risk of heart disease.
Smoking and the risk of bone artery disease (peripheral artery disease)
Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD) is a disease in which plaques build up in the arteries that carry blood to your particular organ and arms and legs. Smoking is a major risk factor for PAD
PAD usually affects the arteries that carry blood to the legs. Blocked blood flow in the leg arteries can cause cramps, pain, hair loss, weakness and numbness in your hips, thighs and calf muscles.
Blocked blood flow can also increase the risk of getting an infection in the affected part of the body. Your body may have difficulty fighting infections in the area.
If severe enough, blocked blood flow can cause gangrene (tissue death). In very severe cases, this can lead to leg amputation.
If you have bone artery disease, the risk of heart disease and heart attack is higher than the risk for people who do not have bone artery disease.
Cigarette smoking, even one or two cigarettes a day can cause bone artery disease. People who smoke and have diabetes are at the greatest risk of bone artery disease.
Risks of passive smoking
Passive smoking means the smoke that comes from the burning end of a cigarette, cigar or wiring/pipe. Passive smoking also refers to smoke exhaled by a person who smokes. Passive smoking greatly increases the risk of heart attack and death of adults.
Passive smoking increases the risk of future coronary heart disease in children and adolescents as follows:
- Damage Heart Tissue
- Lowers HDL- Cholesterol
- Increases blood pressure
What are the effects of smoking cessation on your heart and blood vessels?
- People with diagnosed coronary heart disease who reduce or stop cigarette smoking, have a significantly lower risk of contracting a new heart attack.
- In many studies, this risk reduction has been 50 percent or more.
- People who quit smoking or are exposed to passive smoking immediately get a lower risk of heart attack or other complications.
- Your risk of varicose veins and blood clots related to smoking decreases over time after you quit smoking.
- Quitting smoking can reduce the risk of heart disease as much as, or more than, common medicines used to reduce the risk of heart disease, including blood thinning, statins, beta-blockers and ACE inhibitors.
Surveys of current adult smokers find that 70 percent say they want to quit.
There are several ways to quit smoking, for example, to quit at once or slowly cut back your number of cigarettes before you stop completely. Use the method that works best for you. Below are some strategies that will help you stop.
Get ready to quit
If you want to quit smoking, try to be motivated. Make a list of your reasons for wanting to quit. Write a “personal agreement” with yourself that describes your plan to conclude and how to proceed.
If you have tried to quit smoking before, think about these attempts. What helped you during that time, and what made it harder?
Know what triggers your desire to smoke? Do you smoke, for example, after a meal, while driving or when you are stressed? Develop a plan to manage each trigger.
Enter an end date and let those who are close to you know about it. Ask your family and friends for support in your attempt to quit smoking.
You can also get support from hotlines and websites. These resources can help you create a plan to quit smoking.
Get drug treatment and use it correctly
Talk to your doctor and pharmacist about medicines and over-the-counter products that can help you stop smoking. These medicines and products are helpful to many people.
You can buy nicotine gum and various products from pharmacies. Other medicines that can help you stop smoking are available by prescription.
Learn new skills and behaviors
Try new activities to replace smoking. For example, instead of smoking after a meal, take a brisk walk in your neighborhood or around your office building. Try to be physically active regularly.
Take up knitting, carpentry or other hobbies and activities that keep your hands busy. Try to avoid other people who smoke. Ask them you can not avoid respecting your efforts to quit smoking and not smoking around you.
Remove cigarettes, ashtrays and lighters from your home, office and car. Do not smoke at all – not even a puff. Also try to avoid alcohol and caffeine. People who drink alcohol and caffeine are more likely to start smoking again after quitting.
Be prepared for abstinence and relapse
Be prepared for the challenge of abstinence. The withdrawal symptoms often decrease after only 1 or 2 weeks of smoking cessation, and each urge to smoke lasts only a few minutes.
You can take measures to deal with withdrawal symptoms. If you feel like smoking, wait a few minutes for the urge to pass. Remind yourself of the benefits of quitting, do not get overwhelmed.
If you get a relapse, reflect on what caused the relapse. Were you stressed or unprepared for a situation that you associate with smoking? Make a plan to avoid or deal with this situation in the future.
Getting frustrated over relapses will only make it harder to stop in the future. Accept that you made mistakes, learn from the event and resume the smoke stop.
If you start smoking regularly again, do not be discouraged. Instead, find out what you need to do to get back on track so you can reach your goals. Enter a new end date and ask your family and friends to help you. Most people who smoke make repeated attempts to quit before they do it successfully.
Many smokers gain weight after they stop, but the average weight gain is small. You can control weight gain by following a healthy diet plan and be more physically active. Remember the bright side – food smells and tastes better if you do not smoke.