Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, MD, FFARCSI

Undeniably, smoking causes cardiovascular diseases and about one in every five premature deaths from circulatory and heart diseases are associated to smoking. Smoking affects almost all the organs of your body like blood vessels, heart, eyes, lungs, reproductive organs, mouth, digestive organs, bladder and bones. While smoking has its effects on many organs, the effects of smoking on the cardiovascular system are worth understanding.

Nicotine and other elements present in the cigarette or tobacco affect the cardiovascular system of the smokers and secondhand smokers. Experts say that smoking of tobacco can elevate blood pressure and heart rate for up to twenty minutes after every smoke. Similar effect is also caused when the smoke is inhaled passively. So, let us understand the effects of smoking on cardiovascular system?

7 Effects of Smoking on the Cardiovascular System

How Smoking Causes Cardiovascular Diseases?

Inhaling the smoke of tobacco can cause different responses instantly in the heart and blood vessels. The effects of smoking on the cardiovascular system begin immediately after its consumption. Within one minute of smoking, heart rate starts increasing and it may increase up to 30% in the first ten minutes of smoking. Nicotine present in the tobacco releases adrenaline that makes your heart to beat faster and this increases the flow of blood, thereby pressuring the heart to work faster and harder. The carbon monoxide present in the tobacco smoke puts your heart at risk of harmful effects by decreasing the ability of blood to carry oxygen to the organs. Another major effect of smoking on the cardiovascular system is that it can increase the cholesterol levels. Moreover, the ratio of good cholesterol to bad cholesterol also reduces in smokers.

The level of fibrinogen also increases in smokers, which is a protein that causes blood to clot and makes the blood sticky. This increases the risk of formation of blood clots in the blood vessels, which again is an important negative effect of smoking on the cardiovascular system.

These factors increase the risk of developing different types of cardiovascular diseases and atherosclerotic diseases in smokers.

7 Effects of Smoking on the Cardiovascular System

Here are some of the other effects of smoking on the cardiovascular system, which increase the health risks of a person.

  1. Atherosclerosis

    The blood cholesterol levels can increase due to smoking tobacco, which can cause buildup of arterial plaque on the walls of blood vessels. This can make the blood vessels narrow and thin over a period. This is atherosclerosis, which is one of the major effects of smoking on the cardiovascular system. With this, the circulation of blood reduces, which can lead to several health problems, including increasing the risk of heart attacks.

    Peripheral venous disease is also one such health problem, caused due to thinning of blood vessels. In this condition, the blood flow is low and hence it can't support cell growth in skin and legs. Vascular diseases due to smoking can also increase the risk of abdominal aortic aneurysm which is an arterial bulge that may split and cause death.

  2. Low Blood Oxygen

    Another possible effect of smoking on the cardiovascular system is pulmonary hypertension. This is a medical condition where the capacity of cardiopulmonary blood vessels to exchange carbon oxide and oxygen reduces. It is the crucial metabolic function of cardio system.

    In smokers, the level of oxygen is already compromised because they ingest carbon monoxide and other gases released from tobacco smoke. These toxic gases displace the oxygen circulating in the body, which causes less oxygen supply to the body parts. Also, due to pulmonary hypertension the oxygen level is reduced significantly that causes cardiovascular diseases in smokers.

    Due to the effects of smoking on the cardiovascular system, the heart is not capable of pumping sufficient blood to supply adequate oxygen. Due to insufficient supply of oxygen, the ability of smokers to exercise and perform daily physical activities are also hampered and this ultimately increases the risk of strokes and heart attacks.

  3. Coronary Heart Disease

    To function aptly, your heart needs consistent supply of oxygen rich blood. The effects of smoking on the cardiovascular system are so severe that it can cause coronary heart disease. This is a medical condition caused by interrupted and reduced blood flow through the coronary arteries to the muscles of heart. When there is a buildup of fatty deposits or formation of blood clot in the coronary arteries, the flow of oxygen rich blood reduce and causes coronary heart disease. When the supply of blood to the heart is reduced, some people also experience chest pain immediately after smoking. It also increases the risk of heart attack or strokes when the supply of oxygen and blood is cut off completely.

  4. Blood Clots

    The smokers are more vulnerable to strokes and heart attacks because due to smoking there is less room for blood to flow to the brains and heart through the blood vessels. Moreover, the light smokers and chain smokers usually produce sticky platelets and hence there is a high risk of blood clotting. This is one of the major effects of smoking on the cardiovascular system. When the narrowed vascular space is blocked due to a blood clot, it can lead to total or partial obstructions. Interrupted and reduced blood flow to the brain and heart can cause other serious health issues like memory loss, paralysis and arrhythmias. If the flow of blood is blocked completely, it can lead to death in seconds.

  5. Stroke

    Stroke, also termed as cerebro-vascular disease or cerebral thrombosis, which occurs due to interruption of blood flow to the brain can damage the brain. This can also interrupt the way your mind and body functions. Stroke is the second most common cause of death and one of the most important effects of smoking on the cardiovascular system.

  6. Thromboangiitis Obliterans or Buerger's Disease

    Buerger's Disease is the rare type of peripheral arterial disease that usually affects the medium and small arteries, veins of legs and arms. Buerger's Disease is another effect of smoking on the cardiovascular system and in some studies it is discovered that passive smokers are also at risk of developing such diseases. This disease mainly occurs in young smokers that age between 20 and 45.

  7. Peripheral Arterial Disease

    Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD) is also one of the common effects of smoking on the cardiovascular system. This disease affects the arteries in smokers. In most cases, PAD is caused due to buildup of fatty deposits and fatty materials in the walls of the arteries. Over the time, the buildup increases and makes the arteries narrow and thin, thereby affecting oxygen supply to the limbs. In some cases, the blockage and buildup of deposits can also cause gangrene that may need amputation.

    So, these are 7 common effects of smoking on the cardiovascular system. While treatments are available for all these conditions, it is advisable to seek medical advice and plan to quit smoking.

Pramod Kerkar

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

, MD,FFARCSI

Pain Assist Inc.

Last Modified On: April 14, 2017

This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer

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