Smoking and Blood Pressure
While smoking has been around for a long time, we haven't always known the dangerous effects it can have on our health. Now that we know that smoking causes a variety of different health problems, quitting can feel more important than ever. Health experts have linked smoking to lung cancer,1 but there are other smoking-related health problems that require treatment. Increased blood pressure is a negative side effect of smoking1 and another reason to quit smoking today.
What is High Blood Pressure?
High blood pressure (hypertension) is a common condition caused by blood moving through your arteries too forcefully and putting excess pressure on your artery walls, which can lead to heart disease.2,3Your arteries are the tubes that carry blood from your heart to the rest of your body, and they can narrow over time and become more resistant to blood flow. Blood pressure is the force your blood puts on the walls of your arteries—greater force leads to higher pressure.2,3
Does Smoking Cause High Blood Pressure?
High blood pressure is a potential side effect of smoking. Nicotine in tobacco products causes your blood vessels to become narrower and makes your heart beat faster, which leads to higher blood pressure.2Sticky chemicals in tobacco can damage or clog the lining of your artery walls.4 Twenty minutes after smoking your last cigarette, blood pressure and heart rate typically drop.1
Two studies looking at the effects of smoking on arterial stiffness found that arterial stiffness is higher in smokers than non-smokers.
Chemicals in Cigarettes
We know that the dangerous chemicals in cigarettes can damage your body during and after you smoke, and some of those harmful chemicals in cigarettes include:4
Tar found in cigarette smoke and cigarettes may cause cancer and damages your lungs. Seventy percent of the tar that you inhale stays in your lungs and causes damage. Cigarette brands that claim to have less tar than their competitors are still bad for your health and should be avoided.4
Carbon monoxide is a poisonous gas that prevents blood cells from carrying oxygen around your body. It increases your risk of heart disease and circulatory disease because it prevents your blood cells from properly distributing oxygen to the rest of your body.4
Nicotine is the chemical found in most cigarettes that causes them to be addicting.
Risks of High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure can lead to serious health complications over time if left untreated. In addition to putting a strain on your heart, high blood pressure can also affect your other organs, such as your eyes, kidneys and brain. High blood pressure can lead to serious and even life-threatening conditions, such as:6
- Heart attack
- Heart failure
- Heart disease
- Kidney disease
Reducing your blood pressure by even a small amount can help lower your risk of developing these conditions.6
Reasons to Quit Smoking
In addition to decreasing your risk for high blood pressure, there are a multitude of other reasons to quit smoking. Overall, quitting will benefit your health and improve your quality of life in the long-term. Some or even all of the damage acquired from smoking can even be reversed over time, so it’s never too late to stop smoking. A timeline of health changes after quitting smoking could look like this:1
- After 20 minutes: your heart rate and blood pressure drop.
- After 8 hours: your blood contains higher levels of oxygen and lower levels of carbon monoxide.
- After 24 hours: your risk for heart attack decreases.
- After 2 to 3 months: you can tolerate more exercise and your circulation improves.
- After 1 to 9 months: your energy levels increase, you cough less, you have less sinus congestion and it’s easier to catch your breath.
- After 1 year: your risk for heart disease is half that of a current smoker.
- After 10 to 15 years: your risk of stroke returns to that of someone who has never smoked, your chance of getting lung cancer is almost as low as someone who has never smoked and you’ve decreased your risk of developing other cancers.
- After 15 years: your risk of developing heart disease is that of someone who has never smoked.
Nicotine Replacement Therapy
Nicotine replacement therapy helps you control your nicotine cravings as you gradually wean off nicotine. Products like Nicorette Gum and Nicorette Lozenges allow you to use less nicotine until you can eventually use none. Always follow label instructions when taking Nicorette products. Nicorette doubles your chances of quitting by helping to wean you off of nicotine. As your body gets used to having less nicotine, your cravings will lessen, and you will eventually break your dependence on nicotine.