How Smoking Affects Your Blood Vessels

How Smoking Affects Your Blood Vessels  

For nearly a century, healthcare providers have informed people of the negative health effects that come from smoking cigarettes. While it is true that the research and education shared with the public over recent decades have encouraged millions of people to stop using tobacco, the CDC estimates that up to 42 million Americans smoke regularly, making it a major public health concern.

The list of complications caused by smoking is extensive, including impacting one's blood vessels and cardiovascular health. Here is what you need to know about how smoking affects your blood vessels and why it is worth quitting. 

Immediate Effects of Smoking on Blood Vessels
Cigarettes are filled with a variety of chemicals that all have different effects on your body, both in the short and long term. When you smoke a cigarette, nicotine makes your blood vessels constrict and become narrow. When this happens to smaller blood vessels it can make it much harder for blood to move as it should to other areas of the body, including the heart. As a result, oxygen is not able to travel adequately to various organs. This can lead to high blood pressure and an increased heart rate.

Long-term Consequences of Smoking on Blood Vessels
After smoking for an extended period of time, it is common for people to experience a negative impact on their cardiovascular system. Here are some long-term consequences from smoking on the bodies blood vessels:
  • Atherosclerosis: Plaque builds up on the inside of the blood vessels, making them stiff and limiting the flow of oxygen-rich blood to different areas of the body.
  • Aneurysms: Areas of the artery walls may become weak and may begin to bulge over time.
  • Peripheral artery disease: Certain areas of the body might experience poor blood flow, particularly the limbs, which can lead to pain.
Smoking and Specific Vascular Diseases
Smoking cigarettes contributes to 1 out of every 5 deaths in the United States every year. Undoubtedly, many of those occur in part because of vascular diseases caused by smoking. Some common vascular diseases that smoking can cause include:
  • Coronary artery disease (CAD): This develops when coronary arteries become narrow; sometimes this can lead to a heart attack.
  • Cerebrovascular disease (CVD): This occurs when blood flow to the brain is restricted, which can lead to a stroke.
  • Peripheral artery disease (PAD): This develops when narrow blood vessels reduce blood flow to certain areas of the body, particularly the arms, legs, and feet.
Quitting Smoking and Vascular Health Improvement
While inhaling the chemicals found in cigarettes can have profound consequences, your body can start to recover after quitting. It typically takes about 5 years of being cigarette-free for your blood vessels to experience a significant benefit. In that amount of time, your risk of having a stroke will be the same as that of a nonsmoker. Likewise, your risk of developing CAD will drop by 50% after just one year. Along with improving your overall health, quitting smoking is a wonderful way to improve your quality of life for years to come.

Maintain Healthy Blood Vessels with The Vascular Institute
Smoking cigarettes can lead to a variety of severe health complications, including peripheral arterial disease and stroke. For this reason, quitting is worth it. Even if you have been smoking for many years, quitting can help your blood vessels begin to heal, which can help you live a healthier, happier life.

To learn more about maintaining healthy blood vessels, the trusted team at The Vascular Institute of the Rockies is here for you. Contact us today to schedule your next appointment.

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