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How Does Smoking Affect the Heart?

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By:Karen Yontz Center Staff

For the past 20 years,smoking has been identified as a major independent cause of cardiovascular disease(CVD)in women.Risk increases with the number of cigarettes smoked daily,the total number of years spent smoking,and if smoking started at an early age.The risk for CVD is highest in women who started smoking before the age of 15.

Consider these alarming statistics:

  • Smoking doubles a woman's risk of heart disease.Women who smoke are two to four times more likely to suffer a heart attack.
  • Each year more than 500,000 women in the United States have a heart attack and approximately one-half of these women die.Approximately half of these untimely deaths are smoking related.
  • Individuals with heart disease who smoke cigarettes are twice as likely to experience sudden cardiac death compared to nonsmokers with heart disease.
  • On average,women smokers die 14.5 years earlier than non-smokers.
  • Approximately 18.1%of American women smoke with the largest percentage(21.4%)between the ages of 25 and 44 years.The fastest growing group of smokers in the U.S.is 12–18 year old girls.
  • Smoking low tar or low nicotine cigarettes has little effect on reducing the risk for CVD.

Even being exposed to other people's cigarette smoke("second-hand smoke")can increase your risk.Smoking also acts together with other risk factors,particularly elevated cholesterol and hypertension,to greatly increase a woman's risk of developing CVD.

  • Smoking reduces HDL(good)cholesterol and natural estrogen levels,both of which are considered cardio-protective.
  • When a woman has high blood pressure along with being a smoker,her risk of heart attack and stroke increases substantially.
  • Though it may be helpful in quitting smoking,vaping is not a safe alternative to smoking,because long-term effects are not known.

The Good News

Fortunately,unlike other CVD risk factors,smoking is a preventable risk factor.In fact,it is the single most preventable risk factor for heart disease.Quitting can immediately lower your risk of developing CVD,having a heart attack,and dying prematurely.Within 2 years of quitting smoking,a woman cuts her risks by one-third.Approximately 10–14 years after quitting,former smokers have the same risk of CVD as women who never smoked.

Quitting smoking can be extremely difficult,but today there many options available to help.The Karen Yontz Center is here to support your decision to quit.The benefits of quitting apply to all women who smoke,regardless of when they started or how long they smoked.Even women with diagnosed heart disease can benefit from quitting.The first step is up to you,the time is now,commit to quit.

Additional resources on smoking and heart health:


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