Clearing the Air: The Serious Impact of Smoking on Heart Health

Fifty years ago, smoking was considered the norm and was even advertised as healthy, but now it is recognized as one of the worst things to do for your health. This is due to the fact that smoking is a major risk factor for many diseases, including cancer, stroke and heart disease. May 31st is “World No Tobacco Day” which is intended to help inform the public about the risks associated with tobacco and spread resources to help people go tobacco free.

When it comes to heart disease, smoking in one of the largest preventable risk factors. Dr. Andrew Affleck, a board member for Northern Hearts with more than 40 years of experience, stated, “There are several risk factors for developing heart disease. Some you cannot change such as genetics. Some you can change and have 100% control over. Smoking is one of these. When considering how smoking affects your heart it is really a matter of life or death.” According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation, smoking can lead to increases of plaque within arteries, meaning your heart has to work much harder to pump blood as well as it puts you at risk for developing blood clots and decreases the volume of oxygen in your blood.

Although we often focus only on the dangers of smoking, it is important to understand that the consequences of vaping are just as serious. Dr. Andrew Affleck noted, “I found that young patients did not understand the risk of vaping because it wasn’t “smoking”. What is disturbing is that recent studies have shown that if you vape, you are 56% more likely to have a heart attack and 30% more likely to suffer a stroke.” In other words, all types of smoking can affect your health, whether it be cigarettes or vaping.

Quitting smoking is not easy, however the benefits of quitting are almost immediate and Dr. Affleck stresses that it is never too late to get these benefits! The Heart and Stroke Foundation claims that immediately after quitting, your body begins to recover from the damage smoking has done. It takes 24 hours of being smoke free to decrease your chances of having a heart attack.

If you are looking to quit smoking remember that quitting is very individualized. What works for one person may not work for you. If you are interested in more resources available in Northwestern Ontario which offer programs including personalized advice and counselling, we encourage you to visit:

– The Smokers Helpline (1-877-513-5333)

– The NWQuit website (

– The Thunder Bay District Health Unit (

For all questions related to heart health, please visit: or follow Northern Hearts on Facebook and Instagram (@NorthernHeartsThunderBay), where a new posting occurs every Wednesday on all things heart health.

Submitted by Northern Hearts Program Coordinator, Lana Ryder-Methot.

Disclaimer- The information in this article is intended for educational purposes only and does not substitute professional medical advice, treatment, or consultations with healthcare professionals. Please consult your health care provider before making any health care decisions or for guidance about specific medical conditions.