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Smoking and Tobacco

Smoking Increases Risk of Heart Disease

Cigarette SmokingFor men and women under age 50, cigarette smoking is the most important risk factor for cardiovascular disease (CVD). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have found that cigarette smoking greatly contributes to heart and blood vessel problems.

CVD includes high blood pressure, coronary heart disease (CHD: heart attack and angina), congestive heart failure, stroke, and congenital heart defects. Since 1900, CVD and stroke have been the first and third leading causes of death in the United States, respectively.

Smoking is such a significant risk factor that the U.S. Surgeon General has named it "the most preventable cause of disease and deaths in the United States." Cigarette smoking accounts for about 1 in every 5 deaths each year. It is estimated that 34.7% of these deaths are cardiovascular-related. Atherosclerosis (build up of fatty substances in the arteries) is the number one cause of death from smoking.

Cigarette smoking:

Smoking cigars and pipes increases the risk of death from CHD and possibly stroke, but not as much as cigarette smoking. Pipe and cigar smokers may be less likely to inhale the smoke.

Secondhand smoke is smoke coming from another person or a burning cigarette (mainstream or side stream). It increases the risk of heart and blood vessel disease. Secondhand smoke is responsible for a large number of smoking-related deaths. The American Heart Association estimates that about 46,000 nonsmokers die from heart disease caused by other people's tobacco smoke each year. This happens when people are exposed for long periods of time to secondhand smoke in homes or workplaces.

Men and women can take Healthy Heart Quizzes to learn about the risks of heart disease (American Heart Association).

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Last Reviewed: Dec 04, 2009

Karen L Ahijevych, PhD, RN, FAAN Karen L Ahijevych, PhD, RN, FAAN
Professor Emeritus
College of Public Health
College of Nursing
The Ohio State University

Mary Ellen Wewers, PhD, MPH Mary Ellen Wewers, PhD, MPH
Professor of Health Behaviors & Health Promotion
College of Public Health
The Ohio State University

Phyllis L Pirie, PhD Phyllis L Pirie, PhD
Professor of Health Behaviors & Health Promotion
College of Public Health
The Ohio State University