Smoking and Your Heart How Smoking Affects the Heart and Blood Vessels
Cigarette smoking causes about 1 in every 5 deaths in the United States each year. It's the main preventable cause of death and illness in the United States.
Smoking harms nearly every organ in the body, including the heart, blood vessels, lungs, eyes, mouth, reproductive organs, bones, bladder, and digestive organs.
Learn more about how smoking affects the lungs by reading about COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and bronchitis.
Smoking and Your Heart and Blood Vessels
Smoking is a major risk factor for heart disease.
The chemicals you inhale when you smoke cause damage to your heart and blood vessels that makes you more likely to develop atherosclerosis, or plaque buildup in the arteries.
Any amount of smoking, even occasional smoking, can cause this damage to the heart and blood vessels. Smoking poses an even greater risk for some people, especially for women who use birth control pills and people with diabetes.
If you have other heart disease risk factors such as unhealthy blood cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, and overweight or obesity, smoking raises your risk of heart disease even more.
Smoking also increases your risk for peripheral artery disease (PAD). PAD is when plaque builds up in the arteries that carry blood to your head, organs, arms, and legs. People who have PAD have an increased risk for coronary heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.
Secondhand smoke is the smoke breathed out when someone smokes or the smoke that comes from the burning end of a cigarette, cigar, pipe, or other tobacco product. It can damage the heart and blood vessels of people who don’t smoke in the same ways that smoking causes damage to people who do.
Quitting Smoking and Avoiding Secondhand Smoke
One of the best ways to reduce your risk of heart disease is to avoid tobacco smoke.
- Don't ever start smoking.
- If you already smoke, quit. No matter how much or how long you've smoked, quitting will benefit you.
- Avoid secondhand smoke. Don't go to places where smoking is allowed. Ask friends and family members who smoke not to do it in the house and car.
Quitting smoking lowers your risk of getting, and dying from, heart disease. Over time, quitting lowers your risk for atherosclerosis and blood clots too.
If you smoke and already have heart disease, quitting reduces your risk of cardiac death, heart attacks, and death from other chronic diseases.
Not smoking is an important part of a heart-healthy lifestyle, which also includes healthy eating, aiming for a healthy weight, managing stress, and increasing physical activity.