Smoking is the single most preventable risk factor of premature death in the United States.
Although most people know about the connection between smoking and lung disease, many underestimate the damage that cigarettes have on your body, especially the heart and cardiovascular system. In fact, more smokers die from heart disease or stroke than from lung cancer.
Smoking greatly increases your risk of coronary heart disease, peripheral arterial disease and aortic aneurysm.
The carbon monoxide you inhale finds its way quickly into your blood stream and eats away the lining of your arteries. This makes it easier for cholesterol, fats and plaque to stick to artery walls and accumulate slowly. Over time, all this cholesterol and fatty build-up can clog the artery and cut off the oxygen to your heart or brain.
Nicotine is a stimulant, which causes your heart rate to increase. Additionally, smoking makes your blood pressure rise, meaning your heart has to work harder to pump blood.
Soon after you stop, your odds of getting heart disease or high blood pressure will drop. After 1 to 2 years of not smoking, you’ll be much less likely to get heart disease.
The bottom line: To prevent heart disease, smoking should be avoided. Those who smoke should quit. In many cases, the cardiovascular risk drops considerably the longer you go without tobacco products.
Continue reading to learn the ABCs of heart health and how to reduce your risk of developing coronary heart disease and stroke.