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Smoking and Your Vascular System

Effects on Vascular Health

Effects of Nicotine

Effect on Heart Rate and Blood Pressure

Nicotine, found in cigarettes, vapes, and other tobacco products, is a very addictive stimulant that has powerful effects throughout the body. It speeds up the heart by about 20 beats per minute with each cigarette. It makes the arteries become smaller (vasoconstriction) and increases blood pressure, making it harder for the heart to pump blood through the body. This causes the body to release stored fat and cholesterol into the blood.

Effect on Arteries

Smoking speeds up the hardening of arteries (atherosclerosis) that occurs. It lowers the “good” cholesterol and increases the “bad” cholesterol. Smoking actually decreases the movement of cholesterol through the body and increases the buildup of cholesterol in the arteries. This can lead to stroke, heart attack, and limb loss.

Effect on Sexual Function

Smoking can lead to erectile dysfunction, increasing risk by about 50% because of the damage to the blood vessels. ED can be a warning sign of things to come.

Effect on Blood Clots

Cigarette smoking makes developing a blood clot two to four times more likely. If blood clots in an artery and blocks the flow, the tissue that was supplied by that artery does not get the oxygen and nutrients it needs and can die in only minutes. This can lead to heart attack if the artery is in the heart, stroke if the brain is affected, and gangrene if it is an artery in an arm or leg.

Effect on the Brain

Smoking can affect the carotid arteries in the neck that help bring blood to the brain and the arteries in the brain. It can also lead to a blood clot that blocks one of these vessels. This can lead to a part of the brain that dies when it doesn’t have blood flow. Depending on how much and what part of the brain is injured, a person may lose the ability to walk, speak, or move normally, or the stroke can cause death.

Vascular Disease

Effect on Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD)

Smoking is the primary cause of peripheral arterial disease that vascular surgeons see. A recent study found that of over 1,200 patients with PAD, 90% were current or former smokers. Smoking narrows the arteries that carry blood to the arms and legs. At first, the symptoms can be mild, and with continued smoking the toes, feet, legs, and other body parts can become more and more starved of oxygen. When smokers have PAD, they have significantly more pain, an increased chance for gangrene, and a higher rate of unsuccessful treatments for the disease.

Effect on Aneurysms

Studies have shown that smokers are more likely to develop aneurysms than non-smokers. Smoking also increases the risk of an aneurysm rupturing. When an enlarged artery (aneurysm) ruptures, it can cause internal bleeding that can possibly be fatal.

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Get Help to Quit...

Talk to your vascular care provider; we can support your efforts to quit smoking. Vapes can actually contain even more nicotine than cigarettes.

Nicotine patches, gums, and other replacements are just another form of nicotine and are bad for vascular health. There are many options for quitting smoking and lots of support available, so just ask us!