Tobacco's Toll on Your Heart

If you've quit smoking recently, congratulations! You've done your heart — not to mention the rest of your body — a huge favor. If you're still looking for reasons to quit, consider the following:

Tobacco use is a major risk factor for heart disease. Nicotine damages your heart and can make other risk factors — such as cholesterol and blood pressure — worse.

Cigarettes and other tobacco products increase atherosclerosis. This is when arteries become thick and sticky and blood flow is blocked. When this happens, your heart doesn't get enough oxygen-rich blood to do its job.

Nicotine also increases your blood pressure and heart rate, damages the cells in your blood vessels (including the arteries that feed your heart), lowers your levels of HDL or "good" cholesterol, lowers the amount of oxygen your blood carries, and may trigger irregular heartbeats.

It's not easy to stop smoking, but it's worth the effort. We can recommend many resources to help you quit.

Clinical review by Paula Lozano, MD
Group Health
Reviewed 03/01/2014