Heart & Vascular Program

Heart Health

Risk Factors: Smoking

Smoking cigarettes is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease. The average smoker will die 15 years earlier than a similar non-smoker.

When you smoke:

  • Arteries harden quickly, making them narrower and less elastic. This requires the heart to work harder to pump blood through narrowed arteries.
  • Blood vessels tighten, making it difficult for oxygen to be delivered to the body.
  • The heart beats faster, increasing the need for oxygen. This is extremely bothersome for people who have angina or high blood pressure, as their condition may worsen.

Risk factors associated with smoking include:

  • Increased risk of stroke, lung disease, cancer, gum disease, ulcers, cataracts, osteoporosis and impotence.
  • Double the risk of a heart attack and stroke.
  • The biggest risk factor for peripheral vascular disease. Smokers with peripheral vascular disease are more likely to develop gangrene and require amputation.
  • Benefits from corrective surgery are reduced.
  • Non-smokers exposed to second-hand smoke have a 25 per cent higher relative risk of developing coronary heart disease than non-smokers not exposed to second-hand smoke.

Quitting smoking quickly and drastically reduces the severity of risk factors. Quitting can be hard, but you can do it!