Why smoking is a risk factor for heart disease

Facts about smoking and the heart. Smoking does plenty of damage to every organ in your body. A cardiologist explains what it does to your heart.

Tobacco smoke does plenty of damage to the lungs, eyes, bones, bladder … every organ in your body.

But why is smoking a risk factor for heart disease?

It’s the chemicals in tobacco smoke that damage blood cells and can harm how your heart pumps and the structure of your blood vessels.

“It’s the toxic effects of the smoke,’’ said Joseph A. Lash, M.D., a cardiologist at Norton Heart Specialists. “The smoke has chemicals that accelerate the buildup of cholesterol in your arteries. Over time, cholesterol leads to hardened plaque that blocks arteries. The plaque can also erupt, showering the heart and brain with blood clots that cause heart attack or stroke.”

Cholesterol is a waxy substance that has a healthy purpose, but if there’s too much of it in your blood stream, it will cling to the walls of your arteries. Blockages in your heart arteries can lead to chest pain, heart attack, heart failure and arrhythmia.

Nicotine makes matters worse by putting stress on the heart, so vaping or other ways to consume nicotine aren’t healthy alternatives.

The risk of heart disease from smoking only increases if you have any of the other links. Smoking increases the risk of heart disease; quitting reduces it

Don’t start smoking. But if you are a smoker, quitting will help no matter how long you’ve smokes or how much you smoke.

Avoid second-hand smoke. Avoid places where smoking is allowed and tell friends and family members not to smoke in the house or the car.

Learn your links to heart disease

Despite efforts to diagnose and treat heart disease early, many Americans are unaware of their risk. Are you one of them?

If you smoke and already have heart disease, quitting now will reduce your chance of sudden cardiac arrest – a condition often accompanied by a rapid and inadequate heartbeat (ventricular fibrillation). Quitting also reduces your risk of a second heart attack by as much as 50 percent or more.

Quitting smoking can be more effective than aspirin, statins, beta blockers, ACE inhibitors and other common medications prescribed to fight heart disease.

Get help quitting smoking

Nicotine is addictive, but it doesn’t stay in your system more than a few minutes. Smoking is more of a habit and a psychological dependence.

One of the keys to successfully quitting is preparation. Create a quit plan to:

  • Combine quitting strategies to keep you focused, confident and motivated to quit
  • Help you identify challenges you will face as you quit and ways to overcome them
  • Can improve your chances of quitting for good

Learn more strategies for quitting smoking and other tobacco products and find about ways to get help quitting at NortonHealthcare.com/smoking.

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