How smoking affects your heart

Quitting smoking is the biggest thing a smoker can do to improve their health.

GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. – We continue talking about your heart this week in our Real Men Wear Gowns campaign during February's Heart Health Month.

Dr. Joe Browning, Cardiologist at HealthPartners, says one of the biggest threats to your heart is smoking and he tells his patients that quitting is key.

“From a cardiovascular standpoint, it's the biggest thing they could possibly do to improve their health,” Dr. Browning says.

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Smoking is often thought of as just damaging to our lungs, but according to Dr. Browning, the effects on our heart can be devastating as well.

“When you're inhaling all of these toxins, they directly affect your lungs but then almost indirectly they lead to some widespread inflammation in your body, which damages the inner layer of your arteries,” he says. “That's where plaque formation begins.”

Just telling someone to quit smoking isn't always that simple and Dr. Browning knows that the struggle is very real.

“I've encountered heroin addicts who have kicked heroin and they can't quit smoking,” he says.

He says making certain areas of your life smoke free is a good place to start, like not lighting up when you're in the car. Getting family members on board to help support you can also be powerful.

Changing a habit is no small task, but the work is well worth it.

“Those patients who quit smoking after their heart attack live twice as long after their heart attack as those who continue to smoke,” Dr. Browning says.