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Heart Health

Keep Your Heart Healthy by Not Smoking

When it comes to keeping your heart healthy, choosing not to smoke – or deciding to quit if you do -  can help you reach that goal.  As one of Life’s Simple 7, being smoke-free reduces your risk for heart attack and stroke. 

Follow these steps to get started on the pathway to lower blood pressure and better heart health!

Learn Why It Is Important.

Take Action to Be Healthy.

Know Your Numbers.

Talk with Your Doctor.

Know Your Family Heart History.


Learn Why It Is Important.

The chemicals in tobacco smoke harm your blood cells.  They also can damage how your heart and blood vessels work.  This damage increases your risk of hardening of the arteries – or “atherosclerosis”.

Atherosclerosis is a disease in which a waxy substance called plaque builds up in the arteries.  Over time, plaque hardens and narrows your arteries. This limits the flow of oxygen-rich blood to your organs and other parts of your body.

Any amount of smoking, even light smoking or occasional smoking, damages the heart and blood vessels.  Smoking poses an even greater risk to the heart and blood vessels for some people, such as:


Take Action to Be Healthy.

One of the best ways to reduce your risk of heart disease is to avoid tobacco smoke.  Do not start smoking.  If you already smoke, quit. No matter how much or how long you have smoked, quitting will benefit you.

Quitting smoking can even lower your risk of heart disease as much as, or more than, common medicines used to lower heart disease risk, including:  

Also, avoid secondhand smoke. Do not go to places where smoking is allowed. Ask friends and family members to not smoke in the house and car - especially not around children.


The Good News

Although it can be hard, quitting smoking is possible.  Millions of people have successfully quit smoking and remain nonsmokers. Surveys find that 7 out of 10 current adult smokers say they want to quit.

There are a few ways to quit smoking, including quitting all at once  - “going cold turkey" - or slowly cutting back your number of cigarettes before quitting completely. Please visit Explore Quit Methods to find a method that is best for you.  Be sure to set a quit date within the next 2 weeks.

Ready to think about quitting?  Need some help? You Can Quit! Let Us Help You.


Know Your Numbers.

Smoking is the #1 preventable cause of death here in the United States.  In fact, one out of every 2 people who continue to smoke will die from a smoking-related illness.


Quitting Can Cut Your Risk in Half.

Your heart disease risk from smoking begins to decrease soon after you quit.  It continues to go down over time. Your risk is cut in half one year after quitting. If you have not developed heart disease within 15 years of quitting, your risk is nearly the same as the risk in someone who has never smoked.

If you smoke and already have heart disease, quitting  smoking can lower your  risk by as much as one-half for:

Your risk of “hardening of the arteries” – also known as “atherosclerosis” - and blood clots also goes down over time after you quit smoking.


Talk With Your Doctor.

It is difficult to quit smoking on your own, but quitting "cold turkey" is not your only choice.  Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about other ways to quit.  Most doctors and pharmacists can:


Many quit smoking medicines, especially Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT), are available without a prescription.  You can buy them in your local pharmacy or grocery store.  They include:

Nicotine spray and inhalers require a prescription.


These quit smoking medicines require a doctor’s prescription:

When deciding to use quit smoking medicines, be sure to talk with your doctor or pharmacist before you use the medicine if you:

Read the instructions to see if the medicine is right for you.  If you are not sure, ask a pharmacist.

If you need help right away, you can talk to a quit smoking counselor by phone or online.  You can also call the Quitline at 1-800-QUITNOW.

Find out more about the health effects of smoking on pregnancy


Know Your Family Heart History.

Knowledge is one of your strongest weapons against heart disease.  Learn as much as you can about healthy living to keep your heart strong.

And because diseases of the heart and blood vessels can run in families, knowing your family history can provide important information about your health risks.  Talk to your family about their heart health history.  To learn how to create a heart health family tree, please visit Know Your Family Heart Health History.  

By talking to your doctor about your family heart health history, together you can look for ways to lower your risk of heart disease.


Points to Remember:


Hope Through Research - You Can Be Part of the Answer!

Many research studies are underway to help us learn about heart disease. Would you like to find out more about being part of this exciting research? Please visit the following links:



For more information:

Go to the Heart Health health topic, where you can:

Last Reviewed: Apr 24, 2014