How Nicotine Affects Your Heart

By now, you understand that smoking is bad for your health. In fact, smoking is the leading cause of death in the United States, killing over 480,000 people a year. The chemicals in cigarettes and cigarette smoke can cause lung cancer and a myriad of other health conditions and diseases. But did you know that the highly addictive chemicals found in cigarettes, known as nicotine and carbon monoxide, can have a significant effect on your heart and blood vessels? Not only do they interfere with your cardiovascular system’s ability to function correctly, but exposure to these chemicals changes your heart and blood vessels in a way that increases your risk for heart disease. Below we share the effects of nicotine on your heart and some heart benefits you’ll see after you quit smoking.

The Effects of Nicotine 

Did you know the average cigarette contains over 5,000 chemicals, including arsenic, formaldehyde, and tar, as well as nicotine and carbon monoxide? As this became more known, the number of cigarette users decreased, but the number of vaping and e-cigarette users increased. While vaping side effects are not fully understood, your health is still significantly impacted even with an e-cigarette because they still contain nicotine.  

People at risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes are advised to steer clear of smoking cigarettes. They should also avoid secondhand smoke because of the strain it puts on the heart, whether they smoke traditional cigarettes or vape. Smoking affects your body in several ways but most notably impacts your cardiovascular system. Nicotine affects your heart by: 

  • Increasing blood pressure
  • Accelerating your heart rate
  • Narrowing your arteries and blood vessels
  • Increasing the flow of blood to your heart
  • Hardening arteries, which can cause heart disease, heart attack, or stroke

Nicotine stays in your body for up to eight hours after smoking, harming your internal systems long after you’ve put out your cigarette. Carbon monoxide, another dangerous chemical found in cigarettes, has an equally scary impact on your body. Carbon monoxide binds hemoglobin which is the molecule in your blood responsible for carrying oxygen. Once the carbon monoxide is bound to hemoglobin, oxygen can’t bind, decreasing the amount of oxygen delivered to all your cells. A domino effect begins and to provide your body with more oxygen and pump more blood around your body, your heart can enlarge. All these instances can change the structure and function of your blood vessels and heart and increase your risk of high blood pressure and serious disease.  

When you stop smoking the damages to your heart and blood vessels reverse and your risk of heart disease and other complications drops. Not only does it help your heart but it also has countless other health benefits. 

The Heart Health Benefits After Quitting Smokingsomeone holding a cigarette

While nicotine and vaping side effects are abundantly clear, people still decide to smoke. But kicking the habit can help your body begin to repair itself almost immediately. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, once you quit smoking some of the heart benefits you’ll receive include: 

  • 20 minutes after you quit, your heart rate drops
  • 12 hours after quitting, carbon monoxide levels in your blood drop to normal
  • After four years, your risk of stroke decreases to that of a lifetime nonsmoker

How AMS Cardiology Can Help With All Your Heart Health Needs

If you are looking to improve cardiovascular health, reach out to AMS Cardiology today. Our team of specialists is here to provide superior patient-centered care with top-of-the-line, cutting-edge technology to ensure you receive the best heart health treatment available. Contact us at 215-517-1000 to schedule an appointment.

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