Smoking and your heart

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What smoking does to your heart

Smoking affects the vessels that supply blood to your heart and other parts of your body. It reduces the amount of oxygen in your blood and damages blood vessel walls.

Smoking contributes to atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis occurs when there is narrowing and clogging of the arteries which reduces blood supply, and the amount of oxygen available, throughout the body.

Learn more about how the heart works.

Increased heart disease risk

Smoking also increases the stiffness of the blood vessels making it harder for them to expand and contract as needed and more likely to split. These changes to the arteries can cause a heart attack, stroke or angina.

Discover what happens during a heart attack.

Smokers not only have more heart attacks, strokes and angina than non-smokers, but also at a much younger age.

Cigarette infographic showing risks of smoking

Smoking increases the risk of:

  • Heart attack – 2x higher
  • Stroke – 3x higher
  • Angina – 20x higher
  • Peripheral Arterial Disease – 5x higher

If you smoke, you are:

Four times more likely to die of heart disease (i.e. heart attack and stroke) and three times more likely to die from sudden cardiac death.

Second-hand smoke

Second-hand smoke can cause heart disease in non-smokers. Breathing in second-hand smoke damages your arteries. Platelets in your blood can get sticky and may form clots, just like in a person who smokes.

If you already have heart disease, you are at greater risk from exposure to second-hand smoke than people who don't.


If you are a smoker and are ready to quit, thinking about quitting, or want to help someone else to quit, talk to your doctor or health practitioner about giving up smoking.

Or call the Quitline on 13 7848 or visit the Quit website.

Don’t give up

Many people slip up after they quit and start smoking again. 

Don’t see this as a failure. Instead, think about what made you smoke again. How can you deal with this situation next time? 

What worked and what didn’t work? Learn from this and try quitting again. You become better at quitting each time you try.

Recovering from a heart attack?

Learn more about heart attack recovery, including information on what happened to your heart, heart attack treatment and how you can recover sooner.

Benefits of quitting

One year after quitting, your risk of a heart attack or stroke is reduced by half.  In 5 to 15 years, your risk of stroke and coronary heart disease returns to that of someone who has never smoked.   

Use the quit smoking action plan designed to help heart attack survivors. 


We do not support the use of e-cigarettes. Research on their safety indicates there are risks for heart health and the effectiveness of e-cigarettes in helping people to quit smoking has not been proven.

Need to quit smoking?

Having a plan makes quitting easier. Use this action plan designed for heart attack survivors to help you.