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Smoking and Heart Disease

We often hear about how smoking hurts the lungs. After all, smokers’ lungs take in more than 7,000 chemicals—70  of which are known to cause cancer—from cigarettes. But smoking cigarettes also affects the heart and blood vessels and remains one of the most preventable causes of heart disease.

When you smoke, your arteries tighten, which makes your heart work harder. Smoking also can trigger an irregular heart rhythm and raise blood pressure, which are leading causes of stroke.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, smoking:
  • Causes thickening and narrowing of blood vessels
  • Raises triglycerides (a type of fat in your blood)
  • Lowers HDL or "good" cholesterol
  • Makes blood sticky and more likely to clot, which can block blood flow to the heart and brain
  • Damages the cells that line the blood vessels; the cells become swollen and inflamed
  • Promotes the buildup of plaque (fat, cholesterol, calcium and other substances) in blood vessels and even plaque rupture (resulting in an heart attack)
A recent study found smoking is also associated with a thickening of the heart and lowers the heart's pumping ability—both of which are associated with heart failure. The longer and more cigarettes people without heart disease smoked, the greater the damage to their hearts' structure and function. Former smokers had similar heart structure and function compared to people who had never smoked, which points to the importance of quitting smoking to help reverse any damage.

  • Last Edited 01/31/2017