HCA image for aging heartsWhile many stop-smoking programs focus on children and teens, research has shown that the benefits of quitting for adult smokers are great. If you have heart failure, the benefits of quitting smoking are even greater. You can reduce your chances of heart attack or further damage to your heart. If you have heart failure and you smoke, read on to find out just how important it is to quit today!

How Smoking Affects Your Heart

You probably know by now that smoking is bad for you. You have heard repeatedly that it can cause cancer and lung disease. But many of the affects of smoking also put an extra strain on your heart that can lead to permanent damage. Smoking causes atherosclerosis—a buildup of fatty substances in your arteries. It makes your heart work harder, weakening it over time. Smoking increases your blood pressure and heart rate, which in turn increases the work your heart must do. Smokers also have an increased risk of heart attack, which can cause permanent damage to the heart muscle.

Heart Failure and Smoking Do Not Mix

All of this strain and damage to your heart muscle can result in heart failure. Continuing to smoke will worsen the damage. When you have heart failure, your heart is unable to pump the right amount of blood throughout your body. Depending on which part of the heart is affected most, this can lead to a buildup of excess fluid in your lungs, feet, and elsewhere. Heart failure is usually treated with lifestyle changes and medicines.

No matter what your risk factors for heart failure are, there is no "safe" amount of smoking. Even smoking as few as 1-4 cigarettes per day doubles your risk of heart attack! Smoking cigarettes with lower levels of tar or nicotine is not any better. These kinds of cigarettes will not lower your risk of heart disease.

Studies have also shown that women who smoke have an even greater risk of heart failure than men who smoke.

The Benefits of Quitting

If you have smoked for years, you may think that it is too late for you. But this is not true! It is never too late to benefit from being a non-smoker. If you quit smoking, your heart failure symptoms (like shortness of breath and fatigue) are more likely to improve.

And that’s not all—after just 24 hours smoke-free, your risk of heart attack decreases. After two weeks, your blood circulation improves and your ability to exercise increases. In people who are otherwise healthy, the risk of heart attack and stroke is reduced by half within the first year of quitting. By three years, it is nearly as low as that of someone who has never smoked! And the longer you stay smoke-free, the more benefits there are! (Not to mention the money you will save!)

One study has even found that quitting smoking is just as effective as medicines like beta-blockers and ACE inhibitors at reducing heart failure deaths.

How to Quit Smoking

If you have been diagnosed with heart failure and you are a smoker, make an appointment with your doctor to discuss smoking cessation methods. With the variety of options available, you are sure to find the one that is right for you.