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  • Quitting Smoking After a Heart Attack

    HCA image for aging hearts You have just had a heart attack and survived. After experiencing a heart attack, it is probably not something you would want to go through again. Reducing your risk of another episode and working your way toward improved health will require commitment, discipline, and some sacrifices. One such sacrifice is quitting smoking.
    Why quit smoking after a heart attack? Continuing to smoke doubles your risk of having a second heart attack. If you think it is too late to quit, realize that your risk of a heart attack is already lowered just 24 hours after quitting.

    What Smoking Does to Your Heart

    So how does smoking affect your heart? Smoking contributes to a condition called atherosclerosis. This is when fatty substances build up in your arteries. This build-up causes the passageways in the arteries to narrow, making it more difficult for blood to flow to the heart. Blood carries oxygen to different organs in the body, including the heart. Less blood reaching the heart mean less oxygen for the heart, which can lead to serious conditions, such as another heart attack.

    Other Health Problems

    Aside from atherosclerosis, smoking also puts you at risk for other serious conditions. Here are just some of the ways smoking can negatively affect your health. Smoking can:
    Smoking not only affects your health, it can also endanger the health of others. People who are frequently around secondhand smoke are at risk for the same health conditions that threaten smokers, like cancer and heart disease. Secondhand smoke can also lead to chronic breathing conditions, like asthma, especially in children.

    What Quitting Can Do for You

    In addition to lowering your chance of another heart attack, here are other health benefits of quitting smoking:

    Live Longer

    If you are a smoker aged 65-69 years, quitting will increase your life expectancy by 1-4 years. If you are aged 35-39, 6-9 years are added to your life expectancy.

    Lower Your Risk of Heart Disease and More

    By quitting, you decrease your risk of death from heart disease by 50% or more! And remember all those health problems—high blood pressure, lung cancer, diabetes, bronchitis, and so on—that smoking increases your risk for? Quitting will reduce the risk.

    Feel Healthier, Look Better

    After quitting, you may notice that lingering symptoms that occur in smokers, like a cough or sore throat, will not be as bothersome or occur less often. You may also notice that you have more energy. Kicking the habit can also prevent face wrinkles, stained teeth, smelly clothes and hair. Moreover, your sense of taste and smell will also improve.

    Ready to Quit?

    If you are ready to quit smoking, talk with your doctor about the best approach for you. Approaches may include trying different ways to fight cravings, taking smoking cessation medicines, and meeting with a support group or counselor. There may be several or a combination of approaches you will use before finding what works for you. But it is important that you take the initiative to quit and not give up. Doing so will ensure that your first heart attack is your last.


    American Heart Association http://www.americanheart.org/

    Smokefree.gov http://www.smokefree.gov/


    Health Canada http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/

    The Lung Association http://www.lung.ca/


    Colivicchi F, Mocini D, Tubaro M, et al. Effect of smoking relapse on outcome after acute coronary syndromes. Am J Cardiol. 2011;108(6):804-808.

    Critchley JA, Capewell S. Smoking cessation for the secondary prevention of coronary heart disease. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2004;1. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD003041.pub2.

    Gerber Y, Rosen LJ, Goldbourt U, Benyamini Y, Drory Y; Israel Study Group on First Acute Myocardial Infarction. Smoking status and long-term survival after first acute myocardial infarction a population-based cohort study. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2009;54(25):2382-2387.

    Heart attack recovery FAQS. American Heart Association website. Available at: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HeartAttack/PreventionTreatmentofHeartAttack/Heart-Attack-Recovery-FAQS%5FUCM%5F303936%5FArticle.jsp. Accessed September 7, 2011.

    Smoking and heart disease. Cleveland Clinic website. Available at: http://my.clevelandclinic.org/heart/prevention/smoking/smoking%5Fhrtds.aspx. Accessed September 7, 2011.

    Taking care of yourself. American Heart Association website. Available at: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/More/CardiacRehab/Taking-Care-of-Yourself%5FUCM%5F307091%5FArticle.jsp. Accessed September 7, 2011.

    United States Department of Health and Human Services. What happens to your body when you quit smoking? Womenshealth.gov website. Available at: http://www.womenshealth.gov/smoking-how-to-quit/tools/what-happens-when-you-quit-smoking.cfm. Updated May 19, 2010. Accessed September 7, 2011.

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