How Does Smoking Affect Your Heart? Side effects and risks

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Smoking tobacco affects almost every organ in the body. It can lead to many health risks and complications, including those that affect the heart.

In fact, smoking affects the entire cardiovascular system, which includes the heart, blood, and blood vessels.

The cardiovascular side effects of smoking can be serious. Over time, they can cause serious health problems like stroke or heart failure.

To learn more about the effects of smoking on the heart, read on.

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is an umbrella term for diseases that affect the heart or blood vessels.

Since CVD refers to any disease involving the heart or blood vessels, most heart-related smoking problems fall into this category. But some conditions are causes of CVD, rather than types.

In terms of heart health, smoking can lead to:

Arterial hypertension

High blood pressure is when the blood in your arteries is flowing with too much force. It is also called hypertension.

Cigarette smoke causes high blood pressure because it contains nicotine. Nicotine is a harmful chemical that increases blood pressure.

Atherosclerosis

In atherosclerosis, the arteries become narrow and stiff due to the buildup of plaque. Plaque is made up of substances like cholesterol, fat, and scar tissue.

Plaque blocks blood flow, which prevents blood from reaching other parts of the body and also causes inflammation.

Specifically, cigarette smoke causes and worsens atherosclerosis by increasing inflammation. Inflammation promotes the buildup of cholesterol and plaque, which builds up in the arteries.

In addition, smoking causes high blood pressure, which increases the risk of atherosclerosis. This is because high blood pressure puts extra pressure on the arteries, making them more susceptible to stiffness and cholesterol buildup.

Arrhythmia

Arrhythmia is an irregular heartbeat. It is also called an abnormal heart rhythm.

Smoking triggers heart fibrosis, or scarring of the heart muscle. This can lead to an irregular heartbeat or rapid heartbeat, also known as tachycardia.

The nicotine in cigarettes also increases the heart rate, which can lead to tachycardia.

Coronary disease

Coronary heart disease (CHD) occurs when the arteries in the heart, called the coronary arteries, are unable to supply enough blood to the heart. It is also called ischemic heart disease or coronary artery disease.

Smoking can cause coronary heart disease via atherosclerosis and high blood pressure.

Over time, atherosclerosis causes plaque to build up in the coronary arteries, making it difficult for blood to pass. High blood pressure also damages the coronary arteries, making them even narrower.

Additionally, chemicals in cigarette smoke can thicken the blood, forming clots that can block coronary arteries.

Stroke

Smoking promotes plaque and clots, which can block blood vessels throughout the body. If this happens in the brain, it can cause a stroke.

A stroke, or stroke, occurs when blood flow to the brain is interrupted. It happens when a blood vessel in the brain becomes blocked or bursts.

In turn, the brain is unable to get enough oxygen and the brain cells die.

Heart attack

If smoking blocks blood flow to the heart, it can cause a heart attack. This is also called a myocardial infarction.

Without enough oxygen-rich blood, the heart muscle begins to die.

Heart failure

Heart failure occurs when the heart is unable to pump enough blood around the body. Many conditions can lead to heart failure. Causes related to smoking include coronary heart disease and arrhythmia.

Therefore, as smoking contributes to these conditions, it also increases the risk of heart failure.

Peripheral artery disease

Peripheral artery disease (PAD) occurs when the arteries are too narrow to deliver blood to the arms, hands, legs, and feet.

Smoking can lead to PAD by causing inflammation and atherosclerosis. This can prevent oxygen-rich blood from reaching your limbs.

Abdominal aortic aneurysm

The aorta is a major artery that carries blood throughout the body. It is located in the abdomen.

The chemicals in cigarette smoke can lead to increased plaque formation, inflammation and narrowing of the aorta. As a result, the aorta can develop a bulge or a weak spot called an abdominal aortic aneurysm.

The abdominal aortic aneurysm can get bigger over time. If it does burst, it can be life threatening.

Quitting smoking is one of the best things you can do for your heart. The effects start soon after you quit smoking, although they are influenced by the amount of time you spent smoking before you quit.

The effects of stopping smoking include:

Reduced heart rate

Smoking increases your blood pressure and heart rate. However, according to some studies, in only 20 minutes after you quit smoking your heart rate will drop back to normal levels.

Improved blood flow to your heart

Cigarette smoke contains carbon monoxide, which makes it difficult for your heart to get enough oxygen.

But after 12 hours to quit smoking, the levels of carbon monoxide in your blood will return to normal according to some studies. This will allow more oxygen to reach your heart.

Less risk of heart attack

As your blood pressure returns to normal levels, your risk of a heart attack will also decrease. It starts in 12 to 24 hours after quitting smoking.

Less risk of coronary heart disease

After 1 year of stopping smoking, your risk of coronary heart disease decreases by 50 percent. After 15 years, your risk will be about the same as a non-smoker.

Less risk of stroke

Your risk of stroke decreases after 4 years to quit smoking. Your risk will be about the same as that of a non-smoker.

Quitting smoking can be a challenge. It takes hard work and effort.

Of course, it can be difficult to know where to start. But a doctor can help you create a plan that works for you.

Common strategies include:

Nicotine replacement therapy

Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) is used to reduce cravings and manage withdrawal symptoms. It is a product that provides nicotine in specific amounts.

NRT is available as:

  • room
  • gum
  • lozenges
  • inhaler
  • nasal spray

Usually NRT is combined with other strategies.

Medicines to quit smoking

A doctor may prescribe varenicline or bupropion, which are used to treat tobacco addiction. They are designed to control cravings and withdrawal symptoms. In some cases, you may be able to use the medicine together with NRT.

Advice

A smoking cessation counselor can help you:

  • create a smoking cessation plan
  • cope with cravings
  • manage the stress caused by withdrawal
  • stay motivated

For best results, it is recommended to try counseling in addition to medication.

Smoking cigarettes carries many heart health risks. It can cause high blood pressure, arrhythmia, and atherosclerosis. Over time, these conditions can lead to more serious illnesses such as coronary artery disease, heart attack, stroke, heart failure, peripheral artery disease, and abdominal aortic aneurysm.

The best way to prevent these conditions is to avoid or stop smoking. Talk to a doctor if you need help quitting smoking. They can help you create smoking cessation and improve your heart health.


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