According to cardiologist Ashley Simmons, MD, of The University of Kansas Health System in Kansas City, quitting smoking is good not just for your lungs, but for your heart.
Tobacco use is the single largest preventable cause of disease and premature death in the U.S., according to the American Cancer Society. And while smoking may be most obviously linked to cancer, it is also a major risk factor for heart disease. About 20% of all deaths from heart disease in the U.S. are directly related to cigarette smoking.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate nonsmokers live about 10 years longer than smokers. Yet, despite the statistics, nearly 15 of every 100 U.S. adults smokes. That's roughly 36.5 million adults in the United States who currently smoke cigarettes, and more than 16 million are already living with a smoking-related disease.
How smoking hurts your heart
The nicotine in cigarettes decreases oxygen to the heart and increases blood pressure, heart rate and blood clotting. Nicotine also releases free radicals that damage the cells lining coronary arteries and other blood vessels.
Women are more negatively affected by smoking than men. Not only are female smokers at risk for lung cancer, stroke and diabetes, they're also at risk for cervical cancer and coronary artery disease.
Quitting smoking results in a change of heart
The benefits of quitting are surprisingly immediate and increase over time. According to the American Cancer Society:
- In just 20 minutes, you heart rate and blood pressure drop.
- In 12 hours, the carbon monoxide level in your blood lowers to normal.
- In 24 hours, you reduce your risk for coronary artery disease and heart attack.
- After 2 weeks-3 months, your circulation improves and your lung function increases.
- After 1 year, your risk of heart disease is half that of a continuing smoker's.
Know your risk
The University of Kansas Health System's heart team designed a specialized heart health assessment to help individuals learn their risks for heart disease.
Through the heart risk assessment, you are given the tools to ensure you know the state of your heart health and how to take action. After all, heart disease is the No. 1 killer of both women and men in the U.S.
What you can do
Quit smoking: If you smoke or are close to others who do, encourage them to quit. Go to cancer.org/smokeout for a guide to quitting smoking, a cigarette cost calculator and other helpful tools. Other resources are available at smokefree.gov.
Take the heart health assessment: If you're 35 or older, consider taking the heart risk assessment.
Quit smoking: It bears repeating. Let there be no doubt, if you're a smoker, the healthiest thing you can do for yourself, and for those around you, is to stop smoking. There is no better New Year's resolution.