How does smoking affect women’s risk of heart disease?

Suzanne Steinbaum, DO
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
There is no greater risk factor for heart disease in women than smoking; the moment you quit, your risk starts to decrease. Watch as cardiologist Suzanne Steinbaum, DO, explains why breaking a smoking habit is crucial to cardiovascular health.
Joanne M. Foody, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Smoking is one of the biggest risk factors for a heart attack for both men and women. It also puts you at risk for lung cancer, increases your chance of a stroke, and leads to coughing and shortness of breath. Smoking can have additional negative effects on women who use oral contraceptives, giving them a higher risk of heart disease and strokes.

The more cigarettes you smoke, the higher your risk of a heart attack. When you smoke:

• your heart beats faster.
• your blood pressure rises.
• your blood flow is reduced.
• more carbon monoxide is carried in your blood.
• your vital organs and tissues receive less oxygen.

Smoking can also aggravate other heart disease risk factors by:

• raising your blood pressure
• reducing your HDL (good) cholesterol
• lessening your ability to exercise
• increasing blood clotting

The good news is that it’s never too late to quit. If you stop smoking, you’ll improve your health and reduce your long-term risks – and you’ll see immediate benefits, some within just a few hours! And the benefits don’t stop there - Within several years your stroke and heart disease risk can equal that of a non-smoker’s and your risk of cancer will be dramatically reduced as well.
If you smoke, the good news is you can do something right now to reduce your risk for cardiovascular disease - stop smoking!

Women who smoke, especially those who are overweight and those who take birth control pills and other hormone-based contraceptives, are among the most at risk for heart disease. About 80 percent of women under 40 who have heart attacks are smokers, but according to the American Cancer Society, the risk of heart disease is greatly reduced as soon as 1 to 2 years after you quit. Research has also shown that, after 10 to 15 years of not smoking, your risk of stroke returns to what it would be if you had never smoked.

Talk to your doctor about tools and techniques to help you stop smoking or look online or in your community for a support group. Many of these support groups are specifically for women.

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Impact Of Nicotine Addiction On The Body

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.