According to the American Heart Association (AHA), diseases caused by smoking
kill more than 440,000 people in the United States each year. Even with
antismoking campaigns and medical disclaimers in place, many people continue
to smoke or start smoking every year. Smokers not only have increased
risk for lung disease, including lung cancer and emphysema, stroke and
oral cancer, but also have increased risk for heart disease.
Smoking, in addition to high cholesterol, high blood pressure, physical
inactivity, obesity and diabetes, tops the list as a primary risk factor
for cardiovascular disease. In fact, smoking has been classified as the
single most preventable cause of premature death in the United States.
Facts about smoking and cardiovascular disease
- One out of every five smoking-related deaths is caused by cardiovascular disease.
- Cigarette smoking produces a greater risk for coronary heart disease in
people younger than age 50.
- Women older than age 35 who smoke and take oral contraceptives are at much
greater risk of developing a cardiovascular disease or stroke than women
who do not smoke while taking oral contraceptives.
- Cigarette smokers are two to four times more likely to develop coronary
heart disease, or CHD, than nonsmokers.
- Cigarette smoking doubles a person's risk for stroke.
- Cigarette smokers are more than 10 times as likely as nonsmokers to develop
peripheral vascular disease, or PVD.
How does smoking affect the cardiovascular system?
In posing health risks on the body's cardiovascular system, smoking:
- Causes immediate and long-term increases in blood pressure.
- Causes immediate and long-term increases in heart rate.
- Reduces cardiac output and coronary blood flow.
- Reduces the amount of oxygen that reaches the body's tissues.
- Changes the properties of blood vessels and blood cells—allowing
cholesterol and other fatty substances to build up.
- Contributes to higher blood pressure and increased risk for blood clot
- Damages blood vessels.
- Doubles the risk of ischemic stroke (reduced blood flow to the brain).
- Stimulates the blood clotting process.
- Has been associated with depression and psychological distress.
Why it's Important to Quit Smoking
According to the AHA, eliminating smoking not only reduces the risk for
coronary heart disease, but also reduces the risk for repeat heart attacks
and death by heart disease by half. Research also indicates that smoking
cessation is crucial in the management of many contributors to heart attack,
including atherosclerosis, thrombosis, coronary artery disease and cardiac
Quitting smoking is both a mental and a physical undertaking. Mentally,
you should be ready and relatively stress-free. Physically, you need to
commit to exercising daily and getting plenty of sleep. A person trying
to quit must overcome two obstacles: a physical addiction to nicotine
and a habit. For information and support, contact the New Jersey Quitline
at 866-NJSTOPS or
For a referral to a RWJBarnabas Health primary care physician or cardiologist, call
1-888-724-7123 or visit