Smoking poses a significant risk to the cardiovascular system and is causally linked to all Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) forms.
More than 20% of coronary heart disease deaths, the most common CVD, can be linked to tobacco use.
- 1 in 4 deaths from heart attacks or strokes are attributed to cigarette smoke.
- Regular exposure to secondhand smoke can increase the risk of stroke by 20–30%.
- People who smoke have a 2x higher risk of having a stroke compared to people who’ve never smoked.
- The healthcare costs of a stroke, including follow-up care, add up to $140,000 on average.
- Even smoking fewer than 5 cigarettes per day increases the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Increased Risk of Atherosclerosis
Smoking is a major risk factor for atherosclerosis, a condition characterized by plaque buildup in the arteries. The harmful chemicals in tobacco smoke, such as nicotine and carbon monoxide, damage the inner lining of blood vessels, accumulating fatty deposits. This narrowing of arteries restricts blood flow and can result in heart attacks and strokes.
Elevated Blood Pressure
Tobacco use is associated with an immediate and temporary increase in blood pressure. Over time, this sustained elevation can contribute to the development of hypertension, a major risk factor for CVD. High blood pressure strains the heart and increases the likelihood of heart disease.
Reduced Oxygen Supply
Carbon monoxide in tobacco smoke binds to hemoglobin in red blood cells, reducing their oxygen capacity. This deprives the heart and other vital organs of the oxygen they need to function properly. The heart has to work harder to compensate, which can lead to heart muscle damage and heart failure.
Promotion of Blood Clotting
Smoking promotes the formation of blood clots. A clot in a narrowed coronary artery can block blood flow to the heart muscle, causing a heart attack. Similarly, clots in the brain's blood vessels can result in a stroke.
Worsening of Lipid Profiles
Tobacco use can negatively affect cholesterol levels, increasing the levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL or "bad" cholesterol) and reducing high-density lipoprotein (HDL or "good" cholesterol). These lipid profile changes further contribute to atherosclerosis and CVD risk.
Quit Tobacco for a Healthier Heart
Quitting smoking drastically decreases the risk of CVD. Simply quitting reduces the risk of heart disease, repeat heart attacks, and death by heart disease by half. Within the first 1–6 years following smoking cessation, there is a significant decline in the likelihood of experiencing a heart attack. Moreover, the increased risk of coronary heart disease is reduced by half.
Smoking damages blood vessels, raises blood pressure, reduces oxygen supply, promotes blood clot formation, and worsens lipid profiles. All of these factors greatly contribute to all forms of Cardiovascular Disease (CVD). Moreover, over 20% of coronary heart disease deaths are attributed to tobacco, and 1 in 4 heart attack or stroke deaths is caused by cigarette smoke.
The good news? Quitting smoking significantly reduces CVD risk, with a 50% reduction in heart disease and heart attack risk within 1–6 years of cessation.
- Benefits of Quitting. (2020).
- Health Problems Caused by Secondhand Smoke. (2022).
- Katan M, et al. (2018). Global Burden of Stroke.
- Smoking and Cardiovascular Disease. (n.d.).
- Thun MJ, et al. (2013). 50-Year Trends in Smoking-Related Mortality in the United States.
- Tobacco Use. (2022).
- Tobacco Use and Exposure to Second-Hand Smoke Linked to More Than 20% of Deaths From Coronary Heart Disease. (n.d.).
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