Benefits of Quitting
Smoking hurts. Whether you smoke, are exposed to secondhand smoke or are a nonsmoker, it is important to know the dangers of smoking. Smoking cigarettes not only affects the lungs, but it also harms nearly every organ in the body, including the heart.
Smoking is the most preventable cause of early death
in the United States.
Consider these facts:
Even being exposed to secondhand smoke—breathing in smoke-filled air from a nearby smoker—is dangerous. What’s more, electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, are often thought to be a safer alternative. But recent data suggest these may not be safe, according to the U.S. Surgeon General.
The good news is that quitting helps—even after years of steady or heavy smoking. When you stop smoking, carbon monoxide levels in your blood return to normal within 12 hours. Within just one year, your added risk for heart disease is cut in half. That’s a big deal for your health. Plus you’ll avoid breathing in known toxins—carbon monoxide, ammonia, arsenic, and formaldehyde to name a few—that are components of cigarettes!
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What’s at Stake
When it comes to heart and vascular health:
Smoking causes one of every three deaths from cardiovascular disease, according to the 2014 Surgeon General’s Report on smoking and health.
It harms nearly every organ in the body and delays healing. In fact, many surgeons now require patients to go 30 days without smoking before they will perform major surgeries due to the risk of poor healing and infection.
The damage smoking causes sets the path for hardening and narrowing of the arteries, called atherosclerosis, and peripheral vascular disease (a disease in the vessels that supply blood to the arms and legs).
Any amount of smoking, even light smoking or occasional smoking, damages the heart and blood vessels.
Avoid secondhand smoke, or protect your loved ones from it if you smoke
Contact with secondhand smoke, also called environmental tobacco smoke, from burning tobacco or the smoke breathed out from a smoker is also harmful.
Breathing in someone else’s exhaled smoke lowers HDL or “good” cholesterol, raises blood pressure and can damage the heart tissue. It also increases the risk of heart attack, stroke and death. Among nonsmokers, secondhand smoke increases the risk for developing heart disease or stroke by up to 30%. More than 34,000 nonsmokers die every year in the U.S. from coronary heart disease caused by secondhand smoke, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The data are are so compelling that many workplaces have instituted smoking bans, and research shows a parallel drop in heart attacks, hospital visits for cardiac problems and, in some states, deaths.
Published: January 2017
Medical Reviewers: Kelly M. Bartsch, PharmD, BCPS, CLS; Martha Gulati, MD, MS, FACC, FAHA, FASPC, Editor-in Chief of CardioSmart; Kathleen M. Love, MD, FACC