How nicotine can lead to a heart attack

January 20, 2021 | by Edward-Elmhurst Health
Categories: Healthy Driven Hearts

A new year brings new goals and motivation.

If you smoke, make this year the year you quit. Not only does quitting benefit your lungs, it also helps your heart, among countless other health benefits.

Smoking is one of the most preventable causes of death in the United States. According to the American Heart Association, smoking and secondhand smoke cause about one-third of deaths related to heart disease.

Nicotine, a highly addictive chemical found in cigarettes and other tobacco products, has harmful effects on your heart and vascular system.

It can cause your blood pressure to increase, heart to race, arteries to narrow and it can increase the flow of blood to your heart, according to the American Heart Association. Nicotine can also contribute to the hardening of arteries, which can in turn lead to cardiovascular disease, heart disease and possibly heart attack.

Nicotine stays in your system — affecting your heart and other organs — for six to eight hours after you’ve put out your cigarette.

Nicotine and other chemicals found in cigarettes and e-cigarettes can also lead to diseases like peripheral artery disease, which results in the narrowing of blood vessels and decreased blood flow to your arms, legs, feet and hands. The chemicals can also cause an abdominal aortic aneurysm, which can be fatal if the aneurysm bursts.

Kicking the habit takes work, but your body begins to see the benefits almost immediately.

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, some of the heart benefits you’ll see after you quit include:

  • Within 20 minutes of quitting smoking, your heart rate will drop.
  • Twelve hours after you quit, the carbon monoxide levels in your bloodstream drop to normal, allowing your blood to carry more oxygen to your heart and other organs.
  • Four years after quitting, the risk of stroke decreases to that of lifetime non-smokers.

As soon as you quit smoking, your body begins to repair itself. The Integrative Medicine Clinic at Elmhurst Hospital also offers a four-week smoking cessation program involving hypnosis, one-on-one counseling and acupuncture (if you wish). For more information, contact the Integrative Medicine Clinic.

If you have a loved one who is trying to quit smoking, keep these helpful tips in mind.

Want to detect a lung problem early to breathe easier? Take our free, 5-minute Lung Aware Risk Assessment.

For more resources to help you quit smoking, visit:

AHA’s 5 Steps to Quit Smoking and Vaping

American Lung Association – Quit Smoking


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