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Smoking: Heart Attack and Stroke Risks - Topic Overview

If you smoke, your chance of dying from a heart attack is 2 to 3 times greater than that of a person who does not smoke. About 1 out of 4 heart attacks is believed to be directly related to smoking. Smoking is a much more important risk factor for a heart attack than high cholesterol, obesity, high blood pressure, or stress. Exercise and a good diet cannot erase the risks to your heart caused by smoking.

Smoking even a few cigarettes a day (1 to 4) increases your risk of coronary artery disease. If a person who smokes has a heart attack, his or her risk of sudden death is twice as great as the risk of a person who does not smoke.1

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You know you should quit smoking for your health's sake. So what's holding you back? Maybe you’re afraid of the weight gain, that it will wreck your mood, or that it won't work. But what if that wasn't necessarily so? It's time to lay your quit-smoking fears to rest once and for all. Here's what experts want you to know about why some of those fears aren't what they're cracked up to be, and why none of them should keep you from quitting.

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After you quit:

  • Your risk of having a heart attack is cut in half 2 years after you quit smoking. And 15 years after you quit, your risk of a heart attack is similar to that of a person who never smoked.
  • Even if you have already had a heart attack, quitting smoking will reduce your risk of having a second one.
  • Even if you gain weight when you quit, your risk of heart attack decreases.

How soon you quit matters. People who quit smoking before age 50 reduce by half their risk of dying in the next 15 years compared with continuing smokers.2 But if you quit smoking before age 35, almost all of the risks from smoking can be reversed.

If you already have coronary artery disease, your risk of a second heart attack and possible sudden death decreases when you quit smoking.

A person who smokes is twice as likely to die from a stroke as a person who does not smoke. After you quit, your risk of stroke slowly goes down over time.

    This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: August 15, 2013
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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