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What Smoking Does to Your Heart | What Quitting Can Do for You | Ready to Quit?

HCA image for aging heartsYou have just had a heart attack and survived. After experiencing a heart attack, it is probably not something you would want to go through again. Reducing your risk of another episode and working your way toward improved health will require commitment, discipline, and some sacrifices. One such sacrifice is quitting smoking.

Why quit smoking after a heart attack? Continuing to smoke doubles your risk of having a second heart attack. It is never too late to quit. Your risk of a heart attack is already lowered within 24 hours after quitting.

What Smoking Does to Your Heart

How does smoking affect your heart? Smoking works in conjunction with other heart-related risk factors. Smoking contributes to:

  • Atherosclerosis—by further narrowing your blood vessels and reducing blood supply throughout your body
  • High blood pressure—narrowed blood vessels make the heart work harder, which can also raise your heart rate
  • Increased risk of blood clots—which can cause another heart attack or stroke
  • Lower high-density lipoprotein, or the good type of cholesterol
  • Coronary artery disease after bypass surgery
  • Decreased intolerance for activities, including exercise
  • Other health conditions such as, cancer, diabetes, and lung disorders

What Quitting Can Do for You

In addition to lowering your chance of another heart attack, here are other health benefits of quitting smoking:

If you are a smoker aged 65-69 years, quitting will increase your life expectancy by 1-4 years. If you are aged 35-39, 6-9 years are added to your life expectancy.

By quitting, you decrease your risk of death from heart disease by 50% or more. In addition to heart-related diseases, quitting will also reduce the chances of several other diseases.

After quitting, you may notice that lingering symptoms that occur in smokers, like a cough or sore throat, will not be as bothersome or occur less often. You may also notice that you have more energy. Kicking the habit can also prevent face wrinkles, stained teeth, smelly clothes and hair. Moreover, your sense of taste and smell will also improve.

When you quit, your body begins to heal itself right away.Your heart rate and blood pressure will lower. After 12 hours, carbon monoxide levels in your blood drop to normal. That is just the beginning. In addition to the improvement in your lung function, the risk of heart disease falls in line with that of a nonsmoker.

Ready to Quit?

If you are ready to quit smoking, talk with your doctor about the best approach for you. Approaches may include trying different ways to fight cravings, taking smoking cessation medications, and meeting with a support group or counselor. There may be several or a combination of approaches you will use before finding what works for you. But it is important that you take the initiative to quit and not give up. Doing so will ensure that your first heart attack is your last.


American Heart Association



The Lung Association



Colivicchi F, Mocini D, Tubaro M, et al. Effect of smoking relapse on outcome after acute coronary syndromes. Am J Cardiol. 2011;108(6):804-808.

Critchley JA, Capewell S. Smoking cessation for the secondary prevention of coronary heart disease. Cochrane Database of Syst Rev. 2004;1. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD003041.pub2.

Gerber Y, Rosen LJ, Goldbourt U, Benyamini Y, Drory Y; Israel Study Group on First Acute Myocardial Infarction. Smoking status and long-term survival after first acute myocardial infarction a population-based cohort study. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2009;54(25):2382-2387.

Heart attack recovery FAQs. American Heart Association website. Available at: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HeartAttack/PreventionTreatmentofHeartAttack/Heart-Attack-Recovery-FAQS_UCM_303936_Article.jsp. Updated March 22, 2013. Accessed October 14, 2013.

Smoking and heart disease. Cleveland Clinic website. Available at: http://my.clevelandclinic.org/heart/prevention/smoking/smoking_hrtds.aspx. Accessed October 14, 2013.

Smoking cessation strategies for hospitalized patients. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us . Updated July 25, 2013. Accessed October 14, 2013.

Taking care of yourself. American Heart Association website. Available at: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/More/CardiacRehab/Taking-Care-of-Yourself_UCM_307091_Article.jsp. Updated November 29, 2011. Accessed October 14, 2013.

What happens to your body when you quit smoking? Office on Women's Health website. Available at: http://www.womenshealth.gov/smoking-how-to-quit/tools/what-happens-when-you-quit-smoking.cfm. Updated May 19, 2010. Accessed October 14, 2013.

Last reviewed October 2013 by Michael Woods, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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