If you have coronary artery disease (CAD), quitting cigarettes will cut your risk of death by about 30%. It’s the most important thing you can do for your health.
Research points to proven ways to stop. Certain medications help your body get used to not smoking. Plus, experts and friends can support your goal of leaving cigarettes behind for good.
David Abrams, PhD, a psychologist at New York University, has worked with people to end their smoking habits for decades. “You can quit if you keep trying and find the combination of things that work for you,” he says.
How Smoking Affects Coronary Arteries
CAD “is accelerated by cigarette smoking,” says Neal Benowitz, MD, a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. Almost 1 in 3 deaths from heart disease are due to smoking or being around other people’s smoke.
Benowitz said that quitting is important for many reasons:
- Plaques. People with CAD have fatty materials called plaques that make it harder for arteries to send blood to the heart. Smoking causes these plaques to build up faster, increasing the risk of heart attacks.
- Carbon monoxide. Cigarettes bring carbon monoxide into the body. This deadly gas reduces the flow of oxygen to the heart.
- Other chemicals. Cigarette smoke carries a mix of other toxic particles that damage cells and cause inflammation and blood clots.
- Nicotine. The nicotine from cigarettes may cause your heart to beat faster and harder, which ups its need for blood. At the same time, nicotine narrows your vessels, so less blood can pass through. Nicotine also spikes adrenaline. That can lead to heart arrhythmias.
- Bad effect on CAD treatments. Smoking may offset the benefits of some CAD medicines.
How Quitting Helps
Your whole body’s health — including your coronary arteries — will get a major boost if you quit cigarettes. “A year or two after you stop smoking, your chance of survival is 50% better,” Benowitz says.
And you may see other signs of better health within the first year:
- 12 hours after your last cigarette, the carbon monoxide in your blood drops to the level of a nonsmoker.
- Your heart attack risk starts going down after just 1 day.
- After 2 days, food may start to taste better.
- At 3 months, your blood flow improves and you’ll be able to exercise for longer.
- By 9 months, you should notice less coughing.
People who’ve had a heart attack reduce their risk of having another one by 40% if they quit smoking. And 5 years after you stop, your risk of a stroke will be the same as if you’d never smoked.
Stop Smoking With Nicotine and Other Drugs
After your CAD diagnosis, your doctors may tell you about the best ways to stop smoking. You’re more likely to quit …….