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Quitting Smoking After a Heart Attack
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. It is never too late to quit. Your risk of a heart attack is already lowered within 24 hours after quitting.
What Smoking Does to Your Heart
How does smoking affect your heart? Smoking works in conjunction with other heart-related risk factors. Smoking contributes to:
- Atherosclerosis—by further narrowing your blood vessels and reducing blood supply throughout your body
- High blood pressure—narrowed blood vessels make the heart work harder, which can also raise your heart rate
- Increased risk of blood clots—which can cause another heart attack or stroke
- Lower high-density lipoprotein, or the good type of cholesterol
- Coronary artery disease after bypass surgery
- Decreased intolerance for activities, including exercise
- Other health conditions such as, cancer, diabetes, and lung disorders
What Quitting Can Do for You
In addition to lowering your chance of another heart attack, here are other health benefits of quitting smoking:
If you are a smoker aged 65-69 years, quitting may 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 and other Diseases
By quitting, you decrease your risk of death from heart disease by 50% or more. In addition to heart-related diseases, quitting will also reduce the chances of several other diseases.
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.
When you quit, your body begins to heal itself right away. Your heart rate and blood pressure will lower. After 12 hours, carbon monoxide levels in your blood drop to normal. That is just the beginning. In addition to the improvement in your lung function, the risk of heart disease falls in line with that of a nonsmoker.
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 medications, 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
The Lung Association
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.
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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. Updated May 19, 2015. Accessed August 11, 2015.
Smoking. Cleveland Clinic website. Available at: http://my.clevelandclinic.org/heart/prevention/smoking/smoking%5Fhrtds.aspx. Updated December 2013. Accessed August 11, 2015
Smoking cessation strategies for hospitalized patients. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated September 25, 2014. Accessed August 11, 2015.
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. Updated June 22, 2015. Accessed August 11, 2015.
What happens when you quit? Smokefree—NHS website. Available at: http://www.nhs.uk/smokefree/why-quit/what-happens-when-you-quit. Accessed August 11, 2015.
- Reviewer: Michael Woods, MD
- Review Date: 08/2015
- Update Date: 10/14/2013