Does smoking increase my chances of heart disease and heart attack?
Douglas Jacoby, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)

Studies have shown that cigarette smoking is a major cause of coronary heart disease, leading to heart attack and sometimes death. According to the American Heart Association, more than 2.4 million annual deaths can be attributed to smoking. A chief contributor to the high number of deaths from cigarettes is atherosclerosis (buildup of fatty substances in the arteries), which is also a leading cause of heart disease.

Cigarette and tobacco smoke is at the top of the six major modifiable risk factors for heart disease. In addition, it has been shown that two weeks to three months after quitting, the risk for heart attack drops and lung function improves. One year after being smoke-free, the risk of heart disease is 50 percent less than it is for a smoker.

J J. Marshall, MD
J J. Marshall, MD on behalf of SCAI
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Yes, smoking greatly increases the likelihood of developing heart and vascular disease.  Tobacco products release chemicals that cause narrowings and blockages in your arteries that can lead to heart attacks and blockages in your leg arteries (called peripheral artery disease, or PAD), in the arteries that take blood to your brain (called carotid artery disease), and in the arteries of the kidneys (called renal artery disease). Doctors advise that you stay away from all tobacco products, including second-hand smoke.
Anthony L. Komaroff, MD
Internal Medicine
It's no secret that smoking is a major health hazard: it's the leading preventable cause of death in the United States. But smoking isn't just a cause of cancer, but also one of the most significant risk factors for heart disease. People who smoke are two to four times as likely to die from heart disease as nonsmokers.
Smoking increases your chances of heart disease and heart attack. It thickens and damages the blood vessels, which in turn increases the chances of a heart attack. Heart attacks occur when not enough blood can get to the heart muscles to help them pump blood.
Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
As a heart surgeon, I have seen more hearts damaged from the consequences of smoking than anything else. The minute you inhale smoke into your lungs, you begin to damage your whole circulatory system. The harmful chemicals in smoke attack blood vessels everywhere, including the heart. This sets off a cascade of events that increases your heart rate and blood pressure, raises triglycerides and lowers good cholesterol. Your blood vessels narrow and thicken, and clotting cells go into overdrive. If you land a clot in the blood vessels supplying the heart muscle, it starves the muscle and you suffer a heart attack. Smoking also increases the risk for sudden cardiac death if you already have coronary heart disease. If you smoke, you are 2 to 4 times more likely to develop coronary heart disease than nonsmokers. And if you smoke around nonsmokers, the secondhand smoke can increase their heart disease risk by between 20% and 30%.
Imran K. Niazi, MD
Clinical Cardiac Electrophysiology

Yes, indeed, smoking is one of the most serious risk factors that can cause heart attacks.

Smoking raises blood pressure and cholesterol levels, increases the heart rate and promotes the deposition of cholesterol in the arteries of the heart. All of these factors increase your risk of heart attack and death.

After a heart attack, smoking cessation is the single most effective step you can take to prevent a second heart attack. It is far more important to stop smoking than to lose weight, exercise, reduce stress, reduce cholesterol, etc. All of these are helpful, but stopping smoking is the most important of them all.

Smoking also shortens your life by other mechanisms. It markedly increases the risk of lung, throat and bladder cancer, causes emphysema, reduces the amount of oxygen in your blood, reduces your energy level and your sex drive ... I could go, but you get the picture.

Do yourself a favor and STOP … NOW!

Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
Smoking most definitely increases your risk of heart disease and heart attack. In fact, smoking is the single most preventable cause of heart disease. Smoking raises your blood pressure, narrows and stiffens the blood vessels that nourish your heart, and makes your blood more likely to clot. That's the formula for a heart attack. The good news is that if you quit smoking, you reduce your heart risk by about half. Even if you already have heart disease, quitting helps.
Joanne M. Foody, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Smoking is one of the biggest risk factors for a heart attack. It also puts you at risk for lung cancer, increases your chance of a stroke, and leads to coughing and shortness of breath. Furthermore, smoking affects the health of those around you – including your family.

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.
Robert S. Kaufmann, MD
Internal Medicine
Smoking tobacco or long-term exposure to secondhand smoke raises your risk for heart disease and heart attack.

Smoking triggers a buildup of plaque in your arteries. Smoking also increases the risk of blood clots forming in your arteries. Blood clots can block plaque-narrowed arteries and cause a heart attack.

Some research shows that smoking raises your risk for heart disease in part by lowering high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol levels.

The more you smoke, the greater your risk for heart attack. Studies show that if you quit smoking, you cut your risk for heart attack in half within a year. The benefits of quitting smoking occur no matter how long or how much you've smoked.

Most people who smoke start when they're teens. Parents can help prevent their children from smoking by not smoking themselves. Talk to your child about the health dangers of smoking and ways to overcome peer pressure to smoke.

This answer from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has been reviewed and/or edited by Dr. Robert S. Kaufmann.

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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.