You’ve probably heard a lot about how bad smoking is for your lungs. But did you also know that it’s bad for your heart? The risk of developing heart disease is three times higher for smokers than it is for people who don’t smoke. If you’re interested in keeping your heart healthy, quitting smoking provides both short-term and long-term benefits that’ll make you glad you dropped the habit. Learning more about how smoking and heart disease are related can help you make a positive step in improving your heart health.
How smoking hurts your heart
Each time you light up a cigarette and take a puff, your heart gets damaged. Right after inhaling cigarette smoke, the nicotine — a stimulating chemical in tobacco — makes your blood pressure and heart rate go up. This strains your heart muscles. Over time, the periodic stress and strain of these spikes in blood pressure can lower your heart’s ability to pump efficiently.
Cigarette smoke also narrows and hardens your arteries. This limits the amount of blood that can flow around your body. Your organs don’t get enough oxygen as a result, and your heart has to pump harder to get enough oxygen around your body. Special cells that line your blood vessels become damaged, and they’re more likely to form life-threatening clots in your veins.
Immediate benefits that quitting smoking has on your heart
Fortunately, your heart will start reaping health benefits almost immediately after you stop smoking. Within 2 or 3 hours of quitting, your blood pressure and heart rate can return to normal levels. After just 12 hours, the levels of carbon monoxide — a gas that can hurt your organs and keep your body from getting enough oxygen — in your blood drop to normal amounts. Your risk of having a heart attack even drops within 24 hours of quitting.
Long-term benefits that quitting smoking has on your heart
When it comes to smoking and your heart, quitting can help you enjoy long-term benefits for the rest of your life. Even if you’ve already started to develop health issues related to smoking, quitting can still improve your wellbeing. Some of the helpful long-term changes that happen after you quit include the following:
- Within 2 or 3 weeks after quitting, your circulation improves.
- Within 1 year after quitting, you’re half as likely to develop heart disease as you were when you smoked.
- Within 5 years of stopping smoking, your risk of having a stroke may be the same as a nonsmoker’s.
- Within 15 years after quitting, your risk of developing coronary heart disease is the same as the risk level for someone who has never smoked.
People who quit tobacco use when they’re 30 years old can add 10 years to their life expectancy after stopping smoking. Someone age 50 can add 6 or more years to their life expectancy when they put out that last cigarette. The benefits are clear: if you currently smoke or use tobacco products, quitting is the best thing you can do to help your heart.
Are you ready to put your smoking habit in the past to create a heart-healthy future? We’re here to help! Visit mercy.com today to make an appointment with a primary care doctor. We’ll work together to help you learn techniques to stop smoking and start healthy new habits.