Smoking is a major risk factor for heart disease, but millions of people still light up every day. You most likely know that smoking can cause cancer and lung disease. But did you know that it can also hurt your heart and blood vessels?
If you quit smoking, you can lower your risk for many health problems. It’s never too late to kick the nicotine habit. Learn how quitting can help you get on the path to a healthier, smoke-free life.
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How Does Smoking Hurt Your Heart and Blood Vessels?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, smoking harms nearly every organ in your body.
Cigarettes have chemicals and other substances that can hurt your heart and blood vessels in many ways, including:
- Taking some of the “good” cholesterol away from your blood
- Temporarily raising your blood pressure
- Making your blood more likely to clot, which raises your risk of stroke
- Lowering your ability to exercise, making it harder for you to stay at a healthy weight and keep your blood pressure and cholesterol levels healthy
Smoking also raises your risk of:
- Atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, which happens when a hard substance called plaque builds up on your artery walls
- Peripheral artery disease (PAD), which happens when plaque blocks or narrows the arteries in your arms, legs, or pelvis
- Stroke, which can be deadly
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How Does Quitting Smoking Help?
The American Heart Association reports that quitting smoking helps your body within minutes. As time goes on, the benefits only get better.
When you quit smoking:
- 20 minutes later, your heart rate and blood pressure are lower
- 12 hours later, the amount of carbon monoxide in your blood drops to normal
- 2 weeks to 3 months later, your blood flow gets better
- 1 year later, your risk of heart disease is half that of someone who still smokes
You can lower your risk for heart and vascular disease by quitting smoking, and it’s never too late. Not sure where to start? Talk to your doctor and learn about programs that can offer help and support.
The UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute has long been a leader in cardiovascular care, with a rich history in clinical research and innovation. As one of the first heart transplant centers in the country and as the developer of one of the first heart-assist devices, UPMC has contributed to advancing the field of cardiovascular medicine.