Links Between Smoking and Heart Disease

Smoking and health. Stethoscope and cigarettes on a cardiogram background. 3d illustration; blog: Links Between Smoking and Heart Disease

Smoking is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States, and while smoking is not as common as it once was, approximately 38 million Americans still smoke. Because cigarettes are incredibly addictive, it can be hard for people to quit smoking, even when they understand the harm it causes. To support those trying to quit, the American Cancer Society holds the annual Great American Smokeout to help thousands across the US take the first step towards quitting smoking together. 

With this year’s Great American Smokeout approaching on November 20th, it’s a good time to re-educate or inform yourself about the health effects of smoking. From lung cancer to heart conditions, these are some of the harmful effects of smoking and links between smoking and heart disease.

Harmful Effects of Smoking

Smoking can lead to many complications and issues in the body, and approximately 16 million Americans live with a disease or condition caused by smoking. The following are some of the most common effects of smoking:

  • Various cancers
  • Lung disease, including COPD
  • Stroke
  • Tooth loss
  • Decreased immune function
  • Blood clotting
  • Fertility issues
  • Weakened bones
  • Cataracts
  • Heart disease

This represents just some of the ways smoking cigarettes can affect your body. The impacts of smoking are far-reaching, as nicotine and cigarette smoking can affect nearly every organ in the body, including your heart. 

Smoking and Heart Disease

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, and one out of five smoking-related deaths are caused by heart disease. Smoking and heart disease are linked because of the way chemicals in cigarette smoke affect the cells in the body and cause blood vessels to narrow.  

Smoking can lead to many dangerous heart conditions, including: 


Atherosclerosis refers to the build-up of fats, cholesterol, and other substances that become plaque, which can narrow the arteries and restrict blood flow. Smoking can lead to the formation of plaque in the bloodstream, contributing to the development of atherosclerosis. 


Strokes occur when blood flow to the brain is restricted or blocked and can lead to brain damage and disability such as paralysis, memory loss, and trouble speaking. Smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke increase the risk of strokes.

Coronary heart disease

One major impact smoking has on the heart is restricting the flow of blood in arteries and blood vessels. Coronary heart disease occurs when the arteries that carry blood to the heart narrow, limiting blood flow. The lack of blood flow to the heart can lead to chest pain, heart attack, and even death. 

Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD):

Smoking can also block blood vessels carrying blood from the heart to the rest of the body. Peripheral Artery Disease refers to a lack of blood flow from the heart to the limbs, typically the legs. The lack of blood deprives the limbs of oxygen, and in severe cases, an infected limb may have to be removed.  

Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm: 

Tobacco use is the strongest risk factor in developing an abdominal aortic aneurysm, which is an enlargement or weakening of a portion of the aorta. The aorta is the largest blood vessel in the body that runs through the center of the chest and abdomen. If the aneurysm ruptures, it can lead to life-threatening internal bleeding. 

Secondhand Smoke

The links between smoking and heart disease can even extend to nonsmokers. According to the CDC, secondhand smoke causes 34,000 deaths from coronary heart disease in nonsmokers each year. Secondhand smoke exposes you to hundreds of chemicals that can lead to heart disease and other risks, such as cancer and stroke, and is especially harmful to young children. 

Preventing Heart Disease

The best way to counteract the links between smoking and heart disease is to quit smoking. The risk of heart disease increases with the number of cigarettes smoked over time. Quitting smoking can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease almost immediately, and over the years, the risk of cardiovascular issues, stroke, and cancer drop significantly. Quitting will help those around you by limiting their exposure to secondhand smoke. 

If you’re having trouble quitting smoking, join the Great American Smokeout on November 20th to take the first step towards a healthier heart and life.

Contact Pulse: The Heart, Valve, and Vascular Institute

If you have questions about heart disease or are concerned about your heart health, contact Pulse: The Heart, Valve, and Vascular Institute. Dr. Farhan Majeed is a general and interventional cardiologist located in Port Charlotte, FL. With a wide range of services to help diagnose and treat common cardiovascular conditions, Dr. Majeed can offer valuable insight into how you can lower your risk of developing them. To schedule an appointment, call (941) 629-2111.

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