Smoking and your heart
heartfoundation.org.au|Helpline 13 11 12

Smoking and your heart

Understand how smoking can impact your heart health.

Key takeaways

  • Smoking affects the vessels that supply blood to your heart and other parts of your body. 
  • Smokers not only have more heart attacks, strokes and angina than non-smokers, but also at a much younger age.
2 min read

What smoking does to your heart

Smoking affects the vessels that supply blood to your heart and other parts of your body. It reduces the amount of oxygen in your blood and damages blood vessel walls.

Smoking contributes to atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis occurs when there is narrowing and clogging of the arteries which reduces blood supply, and the amount of oxygen available, throughout the body.

Increased heart disease risk

Smoking also increases the stiffness of the blood vessels making it harder for them to expand and contract as needed and more likely to split. These changes to the arteries can cause a heart attack, stroke or angina.

Smokers not only have more heart attacks, strokes and angina than non-smokers, but also at a much younger age.

Smoking increases the risk of:
  • Heart attack – 2x higher
  • Stroke – 3x higher
  • Peripheral arterial disease – 5x higher
If you smoke, you are:

Four times more likely to die of heart disease (i.e. heart attack and stroke) and three times more likely to die from sudden cardiac death.

Second-hand smoke

Second-hand smoke can cause heart disease in non-smokers. Breathing in second-hand smoke damages your arteries. Platelets in your blood can get sticky and may form clots, just like in a person who smokes.
If you already have heart disease, you are at greater risk from exposure to second-hand smoke than people who don't.

Quitting

If you are a smoker and are ready to quit, thinking about quitting, or want to help someone else to quit, talk to your doctor or health practitioner about giving up smoking.

Or call the Quitline on 13 7848 or visit the Quit website.

Keep trying 

Many people slip up after they quit and start smoking again. 

Don’t see this as a failure. Instead, think about what made you smoke again. How can you deal with this situation next time? 

What worked and what didn’t work? Learn from this and try quitting again. You become better at quitting each time you try.

Benefits of quitting

One year after quitting, your risk of a heart attack or stroke is reduced by half.  In 5 to 15 years, your risk of stroke and coronary heart disease returns to that of someone who has never smoked.   

Use the quit smoking action plan designed to help heart attack survivors. 

E-cigarettes

We do not support the use of e-cigarettes. Research on their safety indicates there are risks for heart health and the effectiveness of e-cigarettes in helping people to quit smoking has not been proven.

Sticky Blood campaign



Sticky Blood TVC courtesy of Quit Victoria




Associate Professor Nick Cox, Director of Cardiology at Western Health and Heart Foundation spokesperson discusses the impact of smoking on heart health and the real-life consequences he sees every day.
(Video courtesy of Quit Victoria)

You might also be interested in

Cyril credits cardiac rehab for getting his life back

Cyril credits cardiac rehab for getting his life back

Cyril credits cardiac rehab for getting his life back

Cyril suffered a heart attack in 2015. Cardiac rehab helped get his life back on track. ...

What's your BMI?

What's your BMI?

What's your BMI?

Are you within a healthy weight range for your height?...

Cholesterol and triglycerides action plan

Cholesterol and triglycerides action plan

Key steps that can help you manage your cholesterol and triglyceride levels....

Aboriginal heart health

Aboriginal heart health

Aboriginal heart health

Visit the St Vincents Hospital NSW and Heart Foundation Aboriginal heart health website for more information...

Kylie defied the heart attack stereotypes

Kylie defied the heart attack stereotypes

Kylie defied the heart attack stereotypes

Cardiac rehabilitation was a turning point for Kylie and essential to her heart failure recovery....

Heart Age Calculator

Heart Age Calculator

Heart Age Calculator

Could you be at risk of heart disease? Get your estimated heart age now....

Are you at risk of heart disease?

Are you at risk of heart disease?

Are you at risk of heart disease?

There is no single cause for any one heart condition, but there are risk factors that increase your chance of developing one. ...

Norm discovered he was at risk of a major heart attack just in the nick of time

Norm discovered he was at risk of a major heart attack just in the nick of time

Norm discovered he was at risk of a major heart attack just in the nick of time

Norm didn’t worry too much about his cholesterol problem – until an angiogram revealed he had an 80 per cent blockage in a major heart artery. ...

Quit smoking action plan

Quit smoking action plan

Blood pressure and your heart

Blood pressure and your heart

Blood pressure and your heart

Understand blood pressure and how it can impact your heart health....

Heart Health Check Toolkit

Heart Health Check Toolkit

You can help keep families like Paul’s together.

You can help keep families like Paul’s together.

You can help keep families like Paul’s together.

Archie was only 11 when he saw his dad, Paul, suffer a heart attack on the hockey field. ...

Snack recipes

Snack recipes

Snack recipes

Search for healthy snack ideas...

Mighty mango smoothie

Mighty mango smoothie

Mighty mango smoothie

Returning to work after a heart attack

Returning to work after a heart attack

Returning to work after a heart attack

Discover how to plan for your return to work....

Research shows if you have gum disease, you’re twice as likely to have heart disease.

Research shows if you have gum disease, you’re twice as likely to have heart disease.

Research shows if you have gum disease, you’re twice as likely to have heart disease.

Aiming high after a stroke

Aiming high after a stroke

Aiming high after a stroke

Sami Kennedy-Sim is an Olympic freestyle skier specialising in Ski Cross. ...

How we work

How we work

How we work

One Heart, One Team...

Dinner recipes

Dinner recipes

Dinner recipes

Search our heart healthy dinner recipes for tonights main meal...

Find a cardiac rehabilitation service near you

Find a cardiac rehabilitation service near you

This cardiac services directory presents information on cardiac rehab programs offered across Australia....

NSW Cardiovascular Research Network

NSW Cardiovascular Research Network

NSW Cardiovascular Research Network

Encouraging cardiovascular research excellence in NSW ...

Jump Rope for Heart

Jump Rope for Heart

Jump Rope for Heart

Jump Rope for Heart teaches school children how to keep fit and healthy through skipping!...

Apricot & pecan muffin bars

Apricot & pecan muffin bars

Apricot & pecan muffin bars

30 minutes
Serves 8

Key Statistics: Heart Failure

Key Statistics: Heart Failure

Statistics and information on heart failure in Australia ...

A nurse shares her top recovery tips for young cardiac patients

A nurse shares her top recovery tips for young cardiac patients

A nurse shares her top recovery tips for young cardiac patients

Pauline is a nurse and shares advice for young people who have had a heart event or are recovering from surgery....

Support after a heart attack

Support after a heart attack

Support after a heart attack

Many different thoughts may go through your head after a heart attack and you may be presented with complicated medical info. Know where to get support. ...

Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection (SCAD)

Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection (SCAD)

Clinical information and links to SCAD resources....

Meatloaf

Meatloaf

40-50 minutes
Serves 6

Kids recipes

Kids recipes

Kids recipes

Find heart healthy kids recipes...

How a pacemaker at 34 saved my life

How a pacemaker at 34 saved my life

How a pacemaker at 34 saved my life

Kim shares the emotional and physical upheaval experienced on her journey to diagnosis and recovery....

Heart attack recovery – your first month

Heart attack recovery – your first month

Heart attack recovery – your first month

Explore the Heart Foundation’s guide on what to expect in the first month after your heart attack. ...

Coronary Artery Calcium Scoring

Coronary Artery Calcium Scoring

A coronary artery calcium score can be used following a Heart Health Check to estimate your risk of heart attack....

Order patient resources online

Order patient resources online

Search and order from our range of printed patient resources online. ...

When The Heart Gets Heavy: Emotional Wellbeing and Heart Conditions

When The Heart Gets Heavy: Emotional Wellbeing and Heart Conditions

Emotional wellbeing is like having a garden, sometimes it grows green on its own, other times it needs watering, cutting back or fertilising....

Blood pressure and your heart

Blood pressure and your heart

Blood pressure and your heart

Understand blood pressure and how it can impact your heart health....

Building physical activity into urban planning and design

Building physical activity into urban planning and design

Building physical activity into urban planning and design

Resources available for built environment professionals to help guide in the development of active outdoor and indoor spaces....

WEBINAR | CVD & COVID-19

WEBINAR | CVD & COVID-19

WEBINAR | CVD & COVID-19

Ask the experts: caring for people with CVD during COVID-19...

Guidelines for the assessment and management of Absolute Cardiovascular Disease Risk

Guidelines for the assessment and management of Absolute Cardiovascular Disease Risk

Guidelines for the assessment and management of Absolute Cardiovascular Disease Risk

Position Description: Consumer Representative for the update of the Guidelines for the assessment and management of Absolute Cardiovascular Disease Risk ...

Our Annual Reports

Our Annual Reports

Our Annual Reports

Discover our Annual reports from 2013 onwards. ...

What is heart valve disease?

What is heart valve disease?

What is heart valve disease?

Heart valve disease means that your heart valve or valves don't open or close properly....