Question: How does smoking affect my risk of getting heart failure?
Answer: Of all of the habits that you could have, probably the absolute worst for your heart health is smoking. Smoking not only causes the heart to beat faster and for blood pressure to go up while you're actively smoking cigarettes, but all the contaminants in the cigarette smoke damage the blood vessels. That blood vessel damage is what may potentially lead to heart failure. About two thirds of the 5 million people in our country who have heart failure actually have blood vessel disease as the cause of that heart failure. So, as a result of that, any risk factor that can predispose you to developing blood vessel disease will automatically dramatically enhance your risk of heart failure over time.
That's the bad news. The good news is that when you stop smoking, almost immediately the risk for developing heart failure decreases over time. So, as a physician, one of the very important things that I do in terms of talking to people like you is to counsel you that discontinuation of smoking -- and we now have some wonderful drugs to help you with that -- is one of the most important things you can do for yourself, because, after all, the management of heart disease is not what the doctor does to you, but what you can do for yourself.