Tobacco and Your Heart: How Quickly can Quitting Heal it?

February 15, 2018

You already know that regular exposure to cigarette smoke is bad for your lungs, but did you know that it also adversely affects almost every organ and tissue in your body, especially your heart and cardiovascular system? In fact, according to the American Heart Association, smoking can increase your risk of heart disease and stroke 2 to 4 times.

How Smoking Damages Your Cardiovascular System
When you smoke cigarettes, more than 7,000 toxins – including arsenic, formaldehyde, and carbon monoxide - are entering your body as they pass through the lungs and into the blood stream, and throughout your entire body. The more you smoke or are exposed to second-hand smoke, the greater the impact these chemicals have on your body.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there is a direct link between smoking and coronary heart disease. Here’s how smoking can lead to heart disease:

  • Raises triglycerides, a type of fat, in your blood
  • Lowers your good cholesterol (HDL), which is needed to help carry the bad cholesterol (LDL) out of the bloodstream
  • Makes your blood sticky, which increases its likelihood of clotting. Clots can cause sudden death.
  • Damages cells that line the blood vessels, making it easier for plaque to stick to them
  • Increases buildup of plaque in blood vessels
  • Narrows and thickens blood vessels

How Much is Too Much?
According to the 50th anniversary of the Surgeon General’s Report published in 2014, smoking as few as five cigarettes per day can lead to cardiovascular disease. Even if you don’t smoke, regular exposure to second-hand smoke also puts you at a much greater risk of developing cardiovascular disease.  In fact, more than 33,000 nonsmokers die every year in the United States from coronary heart disease caused by cigarette smoke.

How Soon Does Quitting Help?
According to the CDC, within just hours of quitting smoking, your cardiovascular system begins to improve. That’s true even for heavy smokers. Here’s how:

  • Within 20 minutes, your blood pressure and pulse rate drop to normal.
  • After 8 hours, blood oxygen level increases to normal and your blood’s carbon monoxide level drops to normal.
  • After 24 hours, your chance of having a heart attack decreases.
  • Within 72 hours, your bronchial tubes relax and your lung capacity increases, allowing for greater blood flow through your body.
  • In two to three weeks, lung function increases up to 30%, circulation improves and walking becomes easier, again allowing for greater blood flow through your body.
  • Within a year, your risk of dying from heart disease is half of what it was as a smoker.
  • Within five years, your heart disease death rate drops to the rate of nonsmokers.

Want to Learn More?
On Wednesday, Feb. 21 we are hosting “Love Your Heart”, a free heart health education event at Greate Bay Country Club in Somers Point from 10 am to noon.  At the event, you’ll hear from a host of medical experts from Penn Cardiology and Shore Medical Center, including Joseph Johnston, director of oncology services at Shore Cancer Center, who will speak about smoking and how Shore’s Tobacco Prevention and Treatment Program can help you finally kick the habit. An RSVP is required. Click here to learn more.

Can’t attend the event but want to learn more about our Tobacco Prevention & Treatment Program? Visit our website at or call 609-653-3440.