Understand the Effect of Smoking on Your Blood Pressure

woman smoking
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 Smoking is less prevalent than in years past, and in most industrialized countries, the harmful effects of cigarette smoking are well-known. Tobacco use is the most common cause of avoidable cardiovascular mortality throughout the world. Many reports about the dangers of smoking focus on the carcinogens or chemicals that are known to cause cancer that is present in tobacco smoke. However, the effects of smoking also include damage to your cardiovascular health, by promoting atherosclerotic buildup in the arteries and by causing obstruction to airflow in the lungs.

The immediate effects of nicotine include constriction of the blood vessels and an increase in blood pressure, which puts a further burden on the heart. The combination of these factors leads to heart attacks.

Nicotine delivered through a cigarette raises blood pressure and heart rate while narrowing the walls of the arteries and increasing the likelihood of your blood to form clots. These effects work together to set up a situation favorable for either heart attack or stroke. Studies have shown that older male smokers had higher systolic blood pressures after adjustment for age, BMI, social class, and alcohol intake, compared to similar nonsmoking men. Among women, light smokers had lower blood pressure than heavier smokers, particularly diastolic blood pressures. Association of smoking with traits like alcohol consumption and increased body mass index resulted in a compound effect.  There is a large body of evidence to support the conclusion that cigarette smoking acts synergistically with hypertension to increase the risk of coronary artery disease.

The immediate effect of smoking is an acute increase in both blood pressure and heart rate, an effect that has been associated with malignant hypertension. Nicotine stimulates nerves that cause the release of potent neurotransmitters like adrenaline. Although there is not yet conclusive proof that smoking causes the disease of hypertension, it is clear that each cigarette smoked results in a temporary increase in blood pressure for a period of up to thirty minutes after finishing.

Smoking increases the risk of heart disease in stroke in people who already have hypertension. The immediate increase in blood pressure with smoking is 5 to 10 mm Hg in most patients. Smokers who drink coffee and have high blood pressure may experience a greater increase from the combination of both habits compared to the increase in blood pressure from drinking coffee alone. Limiting caffeine intake and smoking is a good idea if you have hypertension.In one study, after the first cigarette of the day smoking was associated with a 15 to 20 mm Hg rise in systolic pressure when compared to subjects who participated in "sham smoking." Patients with "essential hypertension" were shown in one study to have a significant rise in blood pressure after drinking coffee and smoking, resulting in a mean elevation of approximately 6 mm Hg in systolic blood pressure. Cigarette smoking causes arterial stiffness that may last as long as a decade after a smoker quits smoking. Arterial stiffness increases the risk of high blood pressure. 

Smoking can increase the risk progression of renovascular disease in patients with hypertension and can also increase the risk of secondary cardiovascular complications.

At the same time, smoking cessation can reduce your coronary heart disease risk by 35 to 40 percent, independent of the duration of your smoking. 

If you have high blood pressure, smoking can exacerbate your condition and increase your risk of serious cardiovascular complications. Quitting smoking is a modifiable risk factor that you can adjust in order to improve your health.

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