This is such a vitally important question! I wish that more smokers would show this level of interest, as I believe knowledge of the changes that take place each time a cigarette is smoked would help to motivate more smokers to kick the habit for good.
We know that the oxygen pulled into the lungs with each breath is absorbed into the bloodstream. Whatever enters the lungs, the blood attempts to absorb. With “smoking”, much more than “smoke” is inhaled. A wide variety of chemicals and toxic molecules found in cigarette smoke enter the blood stream, and are pumped throughout the cardiovascular system. These compounds are directly toxic to the arteries supplying the heart with blood, and to the arteries delivering blood throughout the body.
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The nicotine in cigarette smoke reduces the amount of oxygen delivered to the heart, raises blood pressure, speeds up the heart rate, and makes blood clot formation more likely. We have to appreciate that the insides of arteries are paved with a thin layer of cells, which protect the blood vessel from the contents of the blood. Nicotine, along with carbon monoxide and a variety of other toxic particles will damage this fine layer of cells, thereby exposing the arterial wall to particles in the blood, including cholesterol and inflammatory cells. This results in the formation of cholesterol deposits in the arteries of the heart, which then grow at an accelerated rate resulting in widespread atherosclerosis.
Not only does atherosclerosis resulting in narrowing of the arteries to the heart, it is when atherosclerotic plaques rupture that massive heart attacks actually occur. Blood clots, or thrombus, occurs at the sites of ruptured plaque resulting in rapid and total occlusion of the vessel, resulting in heart attack.
Therefore, to answer the question, smoking affects the heart by damaging the blood vessels supplying the heart, thereby promoting and accelerating the process of cholesterol deposition and buildup (atherosclerosis) leading to heart attack. In short, smoking causes heart attacks.
The good news is that stopping smoking can quickly reverse much of the damage caused by years of smoking. As this figure from the American Heart Foundation illustrates, your blood pressure begins to lower within 20 minutes of quitting. Heart attack risk begins to fall after only 8 hours. It is easier for your heart to pump blood after 12 weeks, and by 1 year, your risk of heart attack has fallen to half compared to someone who continues to smoke. 15 years after stopping smoking, heart attack risk will be the same as someone who has never smoked!
Talk to your doctor about how you can successfully quit smoking. There are numerous programs and support groups in the committee. Your doctor can prescribe nicotine replacement and other helpful medications. Many of my patients have also benefitted from subliminal messaging, such as what may be found at