Thanks to scientific research and the government’s publicity, the fact that smoking causes cardiovascular diseases is a common knowledge. We might have relatives, friends or people we know who had such tragedy happen to them. However, there is still certain degree of misunderstanding on this topic. How does smoking cause damage to your heart? what is the risk? Does the risk reduce proportionally in relation to the reduction of the number of cigarettes smoked per day?
Cardiovascular disease is a class of diseases that involve the components of the blood circulation system: the heart and blood vessels. Some common cardiovascular diseases include coronary heart diseases, such as angina and myocardial infarction (commonly known as heart attack), stroke, and peripheral artery diseases.1
Let’s look at coronary heart diseases more closely. The heart is a muscle, and like all muscles, it needs oxygen to function normally. The blood supplies the heart with oxygen through the cardiovascular system. Coronary heart disease, or coronary artery disease, is the most common form of cardiovascular disease. It occurs following obstruction and/or narrowing of the coronary arteries. The blood flows through the coronary arteries, like water in a tube. When the tube gets narrowing or obstruction, the oxygen supply to the heart muscle drops considerably. This drop usually triggers chest pain, also called angina, during physical activities. In the longer term, this could cause a heart attack.
There are over 4000 toxic and oxidative chemicals in cigarette smoke. The absorption of these components significantly affects the structure and function of the blood vessels system. For example, carbon monoxide from the smoke causes oxidative stress and damages the endothelia cells (a smooth thin layer of cells lined up in the blood vessel wall) allowing plaques to stick to vessel wall, therefore narrows the diameter of the vessel and induces blood clotting and blockage.2
Smoking is an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease. It has been proven that cigarette smoking increases the risk of coronary heart disease even among people with low serum levels of cholesterol. However, smoking appears to have a multiplicative interaction with the other major risk factors of coronary heart disease. For instance, if the presence of smoking alone doubles the level of risk, the simultaneous presence of another major risk factor is estimated to quadruple the risk (2X2), The presence of two other risk factors with smoking results in approximately eight times the risk (2X2X2) of persons with no risk factors.3
In general, smokers have 3 times the risk of suffering a heart attack, 7 times the risk to develop peripheral arterial diseases. In the case of abdominal aortic aneurysm (a localized enlargement of the abdominal aorta, which bears the risk of a life-threatening rupture), smoking up to 1 pack per day increases the risk threefold, 1-2 packs per day fivefold, and more than 3 packs sevenfold, compared to non-smokers.4
You may assume that if you reduce the number of cigarettes smoked per day, the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases should decrease considerably and possibly smoking a couple of cigarettes could be safe. However, a newly published systematic review of 141 cohort studies from 1946 to 2015 showed that the risk for people who smoke only 1 cigarette per day to develope coronary heart disease and stroke is much higher than expected: it is around half of the risk for people who smoke 20 cigarettes per day!5 So, the risk corresponding to number of cigarettes smoked per day is not proportional. There is no safe level of smoking that exists for cardiovascular disease. On the other hand, research shows that the risk of a recurrent heart attack declines rapidly after complete smoking cessation.
In Canada, heart disease is the second leading cause of death and accounted for over 51,500 deaths in 2015. Smoking is one of the most preventable risk factors. Since there is no safe level of smoking for cardiovascular diseases. The only way to protect a current smoker from cardiovascular diseases is to stop smoking completely. Nicotine addiction can be very strong, and quitting smoking can be a very tough task. However, if there is a will, there is a way. A completely natural, risk free, and effective quit smoking aid does exist. It is the in-house developed soft laser Stop TobaccoTM treatment of the Stop Centres. With over 18 years’ experience and advanced knowledge in addiction, the professionals in the Stop Centres will certainly help you smooth out the journey to a smoke-free brand-new life.
1Wikipedia, Cardiovascular disease (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cardiovascular_disease)
2Structural and functional alteration of blood vessels caused by cigarette smoking: an overview of molecular mechanisms. Curr Vasc Pharmacol. 2007 Oct;5(4):276-92
3How tobacco smoke causes disease: the biology and behavioral basis for smoking attributable disease: A Report of the Surgeon General 
4Smoking and Cardiovascular Disease. Hellemic J Cardiol 2009;50:231-234
5Low cigarette consumption and risk of coronary heart disease and stroke: meta-analysis of 141 cohort studies in 55 study reports. BMJ 2018; 360:j5855 (https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj,j5855