If you are a smoker, you have a much higher risk of heart attack and stroke than nonsmokers. “Smoking can cause your blood vessels to thicken and narrow,” says Joseph C. Dwyer, MD, FACC, cardiologist at Saint Francis Medical Center. “Narrowing of the blood vessels leads to clotting, which prevents oxygen-rich blood from reaching the brain, resulting in stroke. Similarly, when blood cannot reach the heart, part of the heart muscle dies and a heart attack occurs.”
Smokers are not the only ones at risk. People who are exposed to secondhand smoke also are more likely to experience heart attack and stroke. This is because the nicotine in cigarettes causes an increase in blood pressure and heart rate, damage to cells that line blood vessels and a decrease in oxygen to the heart.
“For your own health and the health of those around you, you should quit smoking today,” says Dwyer.