February is what’s known as American Heart Month. This month was designated as a way to boost awareness about heart disease, which is the leading cause of death among Americans.

While some risk factors for heart disease aren’t things we can change, many of them are. Our team at AFC Urgent Care TN wants to share some insight about one of those modifiable risk factors—smoking.

How Does Smoking Affect the Heart?

Your heart disease risk increases with every cigarette you smoke. When you smoke, nicotine and other chemicals cause your heart rate to increase. As a result, your arteries begin to tighten and you can experience an irregular heart rhythm.

Smoking can also increase your risk of high blood pressure, which is also a risk factor for heart disease.

Other Effects of Smoking

  • Risk of stroke/brain damage
  • Cataracts
  • Tooth decay
  • Bad breath
  • Macular degeneration
  • Loss of smell and/or taste
  • Yellow teeth
  • Various cancers like nose, lip, tongue and mouth

How Quickly Can You Start to Experience Health Benefits After Quitting Smoking?

The benefits of quitting smoking can be almost immediate! Just 20 minutes after you last smoke, your heart rate and blood pressure begin to lower.

Twelve hours after smoking your last cigarette, your carbon monoxide level drops to normal. One year later, your heart disease risk is half of someone who still smokes—15 years later, your risk is equal to a non-smoker.

Tips to Quit Smoking

  • Know what to expect when quitting cold turkey.
  • Consider nicotine replacement therapy.
  • Make sure to give yourself grace.
  • Find your support system.
  • Know your reason to quit smoking.
  • Eliminate triggers.
  • Find new ways to manage stress.

Looking for other ways to improve your heart health? Stop by one of our AFC Urgent Care TN locations for a checkup to learn where your health stands and what you can improve.