What Smoking Does to Your Heart
| Other Health Problems
| What Quitting Can Do for You
| Ready to Quit?
You 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. If you think it is too late to quit, realize that your risk of a heart attack is already lowered just 24 hours after quitting.
What Smoking Does to Your Heart
So how does smoking affect your heart? Smoking contributes to a condition called atherosclerosis. This is when fatty substances build up in your arteries. This build-up causes the passageways in the arteries to narrow, making it more difficult for blood to flow to the heart. Blood carries oxygen to different organs in the body, including the heart. Less blood reaching the heart mean less oxygen for the heart, which can lead to serious conditions, such as another heart attack.
Other Health Problems
Aside from atherosclerosis, smoking also puts you at risk for other serious conditions. Here are just some of the ways smoking can negatively affect your health. Smoking can:
- Decrease your HDL (high-density lipoprotein) or "good" cholesterol levels
- Increase your blood pressure and heart rate
- Increase your risk of conditions, such as:
- Decrease your ability to tolerate exercise and other physical activities
- Increase your risk of coronary artery disease after a bypass surgery
- Increase your chance of becoming sick in general
Smoking not only affects your health, it can also endanger the health of others. People who are frequently around secondhand smoke are at risk for the same health conditions that threaten smokers, like cancer and heart disease. Secondhand smoke can also lead to chronic breathing conditions, like asthma, especially in children.
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! And remember all those health problems—high blood pressure, lung cancer, diabetes, bronchitis, and so on—that smoking increases your risk for? Quitting will reduce the risk.
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.
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 medicines, 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.
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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. Accessed September 7, 2011.
Smoking and heart disease. Cleveland Clinic website. Available at: http://my.clevelandclinic.org/heart/prevention/smoking/smoking_hrtds.aspx. Accessed September 7, 2011.
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. Accessed September 7, 2011.
United States Department of Health and Human Services. What happens to your body when you quit smoking? Womenshealth.gov website. Available at: http://www.womenshealth.gov/smoking-how-to-quit/tools/what-happens-when-you-quit-smoking.cfm. Updated May 19, 2010. Accessed September 7, 2011.
Last reviewed October 2011 by Marcin Chwistek, 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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