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Heart Disease Health Center

Smoking and Heart Disease

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Most people associate cigarette smoking with breathing problems and lung cancer. But did you know that smoking is also a major cause of heart disease for men and women?

According to the American Heart Association, more than half of all smoking-related deaths are from cardiovascular diseases such as heart attack or stroke. And a person's risk of cardiovascular disease greatly increases with the number of cigarettes he or she smokes. Smokers continue to increase their risk of disease the longer they smoke. People who smoke a pack of cigarettes a day have more than twice the risk of heart attack than non-smokers. Women who smoke and also take birth control pills increase several times their risk of heart attack, stroke, and peripheral vascular disease.

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Cigarette smoke not only affects smokers. When you smoke, the people around you are also at risk for developing health problems, especially children. Environmental tobacco smoke (also called passive smoke or secondhand smoke) affects people who are frequently around smokers. Secondhand smoke can cause chronic respiratory conditions, cancer, and heart disease.

How Does Smoking Increase Heart Disease Risk?

Nicotine in cigarettes speeds up the heart and also narrows the arteries, making it harder for enough blood to get to the heart.

Smoking along with high cholesterol significantly increases your risk of heart disease. Smoking can also cause blood vessels to narrow, decreasing blood flow and can lead to rupture of cholesterol plaque in the blood vessel wall and blood clots.

How to Quit Smoking

There's no one way to quit smoking that works for everyone. To quit, you must be ready both emotionally and mentally. You must also want to quit smoking for yourself, and not to please your friends or family. It helps to plan ahead. This guide may help get your started.

How Should I Prepare to Quit Smoking?

Pick a date to stop smoking and then stick to it.

Write down your reasons for quitting. Read over the list every day, before and after you quit. Here are some tips to think about:

  • Write down when you smoke, why you smoke, and what you are doing when you smoke. You will learn what triggers you to smoke.
  • Stop smoking in certain situations (such as during your work break or after dinner) before actually quitting.
  • Make a list of activities you can do instead of smoking. Be ready to do something else when you want to smoke.
  • Ask your doctor about using nicotine gum or patches or prescription medications that may help you quit.
  • Join a smoking cessation support group or program. Call your local chapter of the American Lung Association.

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