Many individuals understand that smoking can cause lung cancer; however, few realize that smoking harms every organ in your body, including your heart. Smoking increases your risk of heart disease, peripheral vascular disease, and abdominal aortic aneurysm.
How Smoking Impacts Your Heart
Smoking makes the heart work harder by increasing your heart rate, tightening major arteries, and potentially causing irregular heart rhythm. Chemicals found in cigarette smoke can lead to the buildup of plaque in the arteries, which could injure the vessel walls, affect levels of cholesterol and fibrinogen (important for blood-clotting), and possibly lead to a heart attack or stroke.
Smoking Impacts Others
Many of the same harmful chemicals that people inhale when they smoke are also found in secondhand smoke. These chemicals can harm the hearts and blood vessels of individuals exposed to secondhand smoke in the same way that active smoking does. Secondhand smoke also increases the risk of future coronary heart disease among children and teens because it lowers HDL (good) cholesterol, raises blood pressure, and damages heart tissue.
Right away, quitting smoking and avoiding secondhand smoke can help reverse heart and blood vessel damage and reduce heart disease risk. While quitting may seem difficult, here are some great facts from the US Department of Health & Human Services to keep you motivated:
- Within 20 minutes of quitting, your blood pressure and heart rate will decrease.
- Within 12 hours of quitting, carbon monoxide levels in your blood will return to normal.
- Within one year of quitting, your risk of coronary heart disease is half that of a smoker.
- After five years, your risk of a stroke is the same as that of a non-smoker.
- After 15 years, your risk of coronary heart disease is the same as that of a non-smoker.