Why It Is Important to Quit Smoking If You Have Heart Failure
by Sarah J. Kerr, BA
While many stop-smoking programs focus on children and teens, research has shown that the benefits of quitting for adult smokers are great. If you have heart failure, the benefits of quitting smoking are even greater. You can reduce your chances of heart attack or further damage to your heart. If you have heart failure and you smoke, read on to find out just how important it is to quit as soon as possible.
How Smoking Affects Your Heart TOP
You probably know by now that smoking is bad for you. You have heard repeatedly that it can cause cancer and lung disease. Many of the affects of smoking also put an extra strain on your heart that can lead to permanent damage. Smoking causes atherosclerosis, a buildup of fatty substances in your arteries. The blockages in your arteries makes it harder for the heart to pump blood. This excess strain weakens and damages the heart muscle. In addition, smoking immediately increases your blood pressure and heart rate, which also increases the work your heart must do. Smokers also have an increased risk of heart attack, which can cause permanent damage to the heart muscle.
Heart Failure and Smoking Do Not Mix TOP
Over time, the strain and damage to your heart muscle can result in heart failure. Continuing to smoke will worsen the damage. When you have heart failure, your heart is unable to pump the right amount of blood throughout your body. Depending on which part of the heart is affected most, this can lead to a buildup of excess fluid in your lungs, feet, and elsewhere. Heart failure is usually treated with lifestyle changes and medications.
There is no safe amount of smoking. One puff of tobacco has a rapid affect on every part of your body, especially your heart, blood vessels, and lungs. These effects accumulate over time. Smoking light versions of cigarettes with reduced tar and nicotine are not any better and do not reduce your risk of heart disease.
Heart and blood vessel disease is higher in women who smoke and take birth control pills. Having these conditions increases your risk of heart failure.
The Benefits of Quitting TOP
If you have smoked for years, you may think that it is too late for you. It is never too late to benefit from being a non-smoker. If you quit smoking, even for a few hours, your blood pressure and heart rate drop. This can help improve your heart failure symptoms, such as shortness of breath and fatigue.
And that’s not all, after just 24 hours smoke-free, your risk of heart attack decreases. After two weeks, your blood circulation improves and your ability to exercise increases. In people who are otherwise healthy, the risk of heart attack and stroke is reduced by half within the first year of quitting. By three years, it is nearly as low as that of someone who has never smoked. And the longer you stay smoke-free, the better the benefits, including the money you will save.
American College of Cardiology
American Heart Association
Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada
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Lightwood J, Fleischmann KE, Glantz SA. Smoking cessation in heart failure: it is never too late. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2011;37(6):1683-1684.
Smoking and heart disease. Cleveland Clinic website. Available at:
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Accessed October 29, 2013.
Warren GW, Cummings KM. Tobacco and lung cancer. Am Soc Clin Oncol Educ Book. 2013:359-364.
Last reviewed October 2013 by Michael Woods, MD
Last Updated: 10/29/2013