We’ve all heard the statistics – smoking and tobacco use greatly increase your risk of heart disease. But what, exactly, does tobacco do to your heart?
How tobacco hurts your heart
- Nicotine, the addictive component in tobacco, speeds up the pulse rate and raises blood pressure making the heart work harder.
- Smoking decreases HDL (good) cholesterol, increases triglyceride levels and damages the lining in blood vessels.
- Tobacco smoke contains high levels of carbon monoxide, depriving the heart and other vital organs of the oxygen it needs.
- Smokeless tobacco is not a safe alternative to cigarettes because it increases the risk of high blood pressure leading to heart disease and stroke.
- Exposure to secondhand smoke also has a negative effect on cardiovascular health. Nonsmokers’ bodies tend to react more dramatically to tobacco exposure than do smokers’ bodies.
Why quitting is worth it
Quitting has benefits you’ll start to notice right away. For example:
- Within 24 hours after your last cigarette or tobacco use, blood pressure and pulse rate drop to normal and heart attack risk starts to drop.
- Within a few days or weeks, exercise endurance and heart functioning improve, and HDL (good) cholesterol increases.
- Within a year, the risk for most cardiovascular diseases will be cut in half.
Quitting is tough
We know that quitting is easier said than done, and many ex-smokers try three or more times to quit before they succeed. The good news is there are plenty of resources out there to help you quit. Ask your doctor to suggest the best quitting aid for you and check out our tips for finally conquering your smoking addiction.
- Looking for more resources to help you quit? Start here.
- The UK Lung Cancer Screening Program offers low-dose CT screens for patients who might be at risk for lung cancer, including smokers and former smokers. Find out if you or someone you love should be screened.