SHE Foundation - "la Caixa" Foundation
Tobacco smoke goes straight to the heart


Tobacco is responsible for between 20% and 25% of cardiovascular disorders (website in Spanish). What is more, smoking damages your health in general and that of your heart in particular, because tobacco smoke can attack on different fronts, from the internal working of the organ to a reduction in the circulation of blood. Find out how tobacco smoke affects your cardiovascular system.

 Why does the risk of cardiovascular disease increase when we smoke?

Tobacco, along with the more than 4,000 chemical substances a cigarette contains, acts via different routes. One of the most serious effects is that tobacco can cause thrombi – blood clots in the arteries which restrict blood flow – which in turn can cause heart attacks and strokes. Smoking on a continuous basis accelerates the ageing and degeneration of the arteries, leading to arteriosclerosis and an increase in cardiovascular risk factors.

 So what happens to our bodies when we inhale tobacco smoke?

  • Less oxygen for the heart to work effectively:

Smoking reduces the concentration of oxygen in the blood, which means that the heart will have to work harder to continue working normally

  • Thinner and less flexible veins and arteries:

The build-up of cholesterol on the internal walls of the arteries causes them to become thinner and harder; this also leads to an increase in blood pressure

  • Thicker blood:

Smoking can make the blood thicken and increase the likelihood of clots forming

Women’s hearts are more vulnerable to tobacco smoke, so if they smoke their chances of suffering a stroke are higher.

Secondary smoke has the same effect on the heart

Second-hand smoke is one of the most preventable causes of coronary artery disease and acute myocardial infarction, together with obesity and a sedentary lifestyle. Staying away from smoky places in turn reduces the risk of heart disease, because the smoke inhaled by a passive smoker contains three times more nicotine and tar than the actual smoker inhales (according to studies carried out by the Clínica de la Universidad de Navarra). Strangely, in people under 45 and over 75, smoking is the most common cause of coronary heart disease, whereas people between 46 and 75 die more from lung cancer.

Moving towards a world without tobacco should be a priority objective, raising people’s awareness and making sure that new smokers do not pick up a habit that has clearly been shown to be harmful. We should be aware of the fact that tobacco, and specifically nicotine, is a highly addictive substance and that, as far as dependency is concerned, there is no difference between smoking conventional and electronic cigarettes. 

The positive effects of giving up smoking can be noticed a few hours after putting out the last cigarette. Eight hours after smoking, oxygen in the blood returns to normal levels. After the first day the risk of a heart attack begins to go down and, after two weeks, circulation and breathing will have noticeably improved. With all these benefits waiting around the corner, who is going to think that giving up is not worth the effort?

Sources and further information: (Spanish Heart Foundation, in Spanish);;; Universidad de Navarra