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Smoking and your heart
heartfoundation.org.au|Helpline 13 11 12

Smoking and your heart

Understand how smoking can impact your heart health.

Key takeaways

  • Smoking affects the vessels that supply blood to your heart and other parts of your body. 
  • Smokers not only have more heart attacks, strokes and angina than non-smokers, but also at a much younger age.
2 min read

What smoking does to your heart

Smoking affects the vessels that supply blood to your heart and other parts of your body. It reduces the amount of oxygen in your blood and damages blood vessel walls.

Smoking contributes to atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis occurs when there is narrowing and clogging of the arteries which reduces blood supply, and the amount of oxygen available, throughout the body.

Increased heart disease risk

Smoking also increases the stiffness of the blood vessels making it harder for them to expand and contract as needed and more likely to split. These changes to the arteries can cause a heart attack, stroke or angina.

Smokers not only have more heart attacks, strokes and angina than non-smokers, but also at a much younger age.

Smoking increases the risk of:
  • Heart attack – 2x higher
  • Stroke – 3x higher
  • Peripheral arterial disease – 5x higher
If you smoke, you are:

Four times more likely to die of heart disease (i.e. heart attack and stroke) and three times more likely to die from sudden cardiac death.

Second-hand smoke

Second-hand smoke can cause heart disease in non-smokers. Breathing in second-hand smoke damages your arteries. Platelets in your blood can get sticky and may form clots, just like in a person who smokes.
If you already have heart disease, you are at greater risk from exposure to second-hand smoke than people who don't.

Quitting

If you are a smoker and are ready to quit, thinking about quitting, or want to help someone else to quit, talk to your doctor or health practitioner about giving up smoking.

Or call the Quitline on 13 7848 or visit the Quit website.

Keep trying 

Many people slip up after they quit and start smoking again. 

Don’t see this as a failure. Instead, think about what made you smoke again. How can you deal with this situation next time? 

What worked and what didn’t work? Learn from this and try quitting again. You become better at quitting each time you try.

Benefits of quitting

One year after quitting, your risk of a heart attack or stroke is reduced by half.  In 5 to 15 years, your risk of stroke and coronary heart disease returns to that of someone who has never smoked.   

Use the quit smoking action plan designed to help heart attack survivors. 

E-cigarettes

We do not support the use of e-cigarettes. Research on their safety indicates there are risks for heart health and the effectiveness of e-cigarettes in helping people to quit smoking has not been proven.

Sticky Blood campaign



Sticky Blood TVC courtesy of Quit Victoria




Associate Professor Nick Cox, Director of Cardiology at Western Health and Heart Foundation spokesperson discusses the impact of smoking on heart health and the real-life consequences he sees every day.
(Video courtesy of Quit Victoria)

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