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Smoking and Heart Disease


by the Go Red For Women Editors

Smoking is unhealthy. You know it, we know it, kids know it. Yet several people haven’t kicked the habit.

If you smoke, you’re likely aware that you’re not doing your body any favors. But you do it because you like to, and it gives you a rush. And even if you want to, it’s hard to give up. Even doctors who profess the evils of smoking are smokers themselves. That’s how addictive it is.

Despite all of the feel-good reasons why you enjoy smoking, the fact remains that you’re hurting your body. In fact, a pack of cigarettes includes a warning label that says: Warning: I can increase irritability, impatience, hostility, anxiety, depression, difficulty concentrating, restlessness, decreased heart rate, appetite or weight gain. And that’s just for starters.

Nicotine alters the balance of chemicals in your brain so that each time you inhale it, it makes you feel relaxed, less stressed and wanting more. So what happens when you try to cut back? It makes you feel bad, hitting you hard with headaches, lethargy, lightheadedness and a downright lousy mood. Is it any wonder that so many people become addicted?

It’s time to listen to your heart

What does smoking actually do to your body that puts you at risk for heart disease? It may surprise you to learn that smoking increases the risk of heart disease and stroke by 2 to 4 times. Also, women who smoke have a 25 percent higher risk of developing heart disease as compared to men who smoke.  And continuing to smoke throughout your life shaves 13-14 years off of it. So, despite beliefs to the contrary, smoking doesn’t just cause a risk for lung cancer.

Here’s a look at how smoking damages your heart:

  • Nicotine makes your heart rate and blood pressure skyrocket.
  • Carbon monoxide and tobacco rob your heart, brain and arteries of oxygen.
  • It damages your blood vessels and makes your blood sticky – a recipe for blood clots.
  • It lowers your tolerance for physical activity and decreases HDL (good) cholesterol.
  • If you take oral contraceptives it increases your blood pressure and risk for stroke and heart attack.

According to Dr. Clyde Yancy, professor and chief of the division of cardiology at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, smoking damages every tissue and organ in your body. These include your heart, lungs, mouth, throat, kidneys, cervix and pancreas. And nonsmokers who have high blood pressure or high cholesterol have an even greater risk of developing heart disease when they’re exposed to secondhand smoke.

If that’s not enough, puff on this: there are 4,000 chemical components found in cigarettes and at least 250 of them are harmful to human health. We’re talking about chemicals used to manufacture rubber, preserve wood, make batteries, pave driveways and roads and make nuclear reactors. That’s what’s going into your body every time you inhale. Still surprised it causes heart disease?

The good news is that when you stop smoking, your risk for heart disease and stroke can be cut in half just one year later and continues to decline until it’s as low as a nonsmoker’s risk. It’s time to take action and fight for your health, and the health of the women you love.

Read these helpful materials from the American Heart Association on how to quit smokingfrequently asked questions (including medication recommendations) and how to handle the stress of not smoking.

For more information and tips on how you can – and why you should – kick the habit, check out our article Smoking: Why You Should Quit.


  • rosemarie jackson

    I agree with this truth. I am a smoker and I want to quit. From the age of 14 to 18 I smoked. I quit when I joined a COGIC or Church of God in Christ. From 18 to 39 I did not smoke.

  • rosemarie jackson

    I started a new job at 39. It was night shift. When I went home and to the store, it looked like the cigarette packages were sparkling. This may sound strange… what can I say.

  • rosemarie jackson

    The experience was like being a child looking at candy. I started dreaming I was smoking and actually came out of a dream blowing out my breath as if actually smoking.

  • rosemarie jackson

    This scared me and I called on Jesus for help. About a week later I yielded. My child was 12 or 13 at the time and the look of pain and disappointment in his eyes wounded me.I was not as faithful with going to church services at this time. And 18 years later I am still not.

  • Victoria Tucker

    im 16 years old now i’ve been smoking since i was 9 and now that i have a 10 month old ive stoped its really not that easy like every one thinks it is.