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Smoking & heart health

Last Updated: 15 January 2019








Smoking & heart health

Smokers are nearly twice as likely to have a heart attack than people who have never smoked. Smoking is also responsible for 10% of cardiovascular disease worldwide.

If you’re a smoker, it’s not too late – the risk to your heart decreases quickly after quitting. Men quitting at 66 gained an average 2 years of life, and women gained nearly 4.


How does smoking effect your heart?

  • Smoking narrows your arteries with a build-up of fatty material (atheroma). This can cause angina, a heart attack or a stroke.

  • Carbon monoxide in tobacco smoke reduces the amount of oxygen in your blood. Your heart then has to pump harder to supply your body with oxygen.

  • Nicotine found in cigarettes stimulates adrenaline production which forces your heart to work harder by increasing blood pressure and raising your heart rate.

  • Both carbon monoxide and nicotine cause blood to thicken and clot, causing a heart attack or stroke.


How quickly does quitting help?


20 minutes >> Blood pressure and heart rate return to normal. Circulation improves.

8 hours       >>  Blood oxygen returns to normal. Chance of heart attack starts to fall.

24 hours     >>  Carbon monoxide in the body is gone. Lungs start to clear of debris/mucus.

3 days         >>  Noticeable improvement to breathing.

5 years        >>  Heart attack risk halved.

10 years      >>  Lung cancer risk halved.

15 years      >>  Risk of cardiovascular disease the same as a non-smoker.


Getting help quitting

There’s a wide range of free support options and resources available to help you quit smoking. Talk to your doctor or take a look at NHS Smokefree and Quit


Written by Dr. Noel Duncan




Heart health
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