Updated 15 September 2014

How smoking kills your heart

Smoking is a major cause of heart attack, stroke and peripheral arterial disease. Nearly 40% of all people who die from smoking tobacco do so due to heart and blood vessel disease.

A person’s risk of heart attack greatly increases with the number of cigarettes he or she smokes.

How does smoking damage your heart?

• The heart relies on a generous supply of oxygen and nutrients from the two coronary arteries and their branches. Over the years, fatty deposits can build up inside one or more of the coronary arteries. This narrowing of the arteries reduces the flow of blood to the heart and increases the risk of angina, a heart attack and stroke.

• The carbon monoxide in tobacco smoke reduces the amount of oxygen in your blood. This means your heart has to pump harder to supply the body with the oxygen it needs.

• The nicotine in cigarettes stimulates your body to produce adrenaline, which makes your heart beat faster and raises your blood pressure, making your heart work harder. Your blood is more likely to clot, which increases your risk of having a heart attack or stroke.

• Smoking also damages other blood vessels. This can reduce blood circulation, particularly to your hands and feet, and result in blood clots, gangrene and even amputation.

Other health concerns related to smoking:

• Decreased exercise tolerance
• Decreased HDL (good) cholesterol
• Increased risk of developing lung cancer, throat cancer, chronic asthma, chronic bronchitis and emphysema
• Increased risk of developing diabetes.
• Increased risk of developing gum disease and ulcers
• Second-hand smoking causes heart disease in non-smokers, which means you could be harming the health of your children, partner and friends.

Giving up smoking has huge benefits and it’s never too late to stop. 

Research shows that quitting has the following effects on your body:

Within eight hours of quitting smoking

Blood oxygen levels increase and the chances of a heart attack start to fall.

Within one day

•    Your heart rate slows down and your blood pressure drops slightly.
•    The carbon monoxide has left your blood.
•    Oxygen levels in your blood rise.

Within two to three months

•    Your ability to smell and taste improves.
•    Your lungs regain the ability to clean themselves, so you can cough up mucus.
•    The blood flow to your hands and feet improves.

Within one year

Your risk of heart attack is greatly reduced.

Within six years
Your risk of developing coronary heart disease returns to a similar level to that of a non-smoker.

To quit, you must be ready – both emotionally and mentally. You must also want to quit smoking.  Contact your nearest Intercare Medical & Dental Centrefor help.



Read Health24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.