Smoking and cholesterol levels that are too high are two major risk factors for the onset of heart disease.
Smoking causes the walls of your arteries to stiffen and leaves them more vulnerable to the build-up of cholesterol and narrowing of the arteries that carry oxygen-rich blood through your body.
By smoking, you put yourself at a much higher risk of developing chronic heart disease.
This article will help you understand the risks involved with smoking, how your cholesterol level is affected by cigarette smoke, and the steps you can take to lower your health risks.
Smoking and Cholesterol – Understanding The Risks
Smoking and cholesterol levels that are above the normal range both contribute to the development of heart disease. To understand the roles they play you must first understand how they affect your body.
Your liver naturally makes cholesterol (a type of fat) and your body uses cholesterol for important tasks such as supporting your cell membranes and creating hormones, vitamins, and digestive enzymes.
Because your body makes cholesterol, you need very little from your diet. However, if you eat too much-saturated fat and cholesterol, your blood cholesterol can climb to an unhealthy level.
Not all cholesterol is harmful. Your doctor will test your blood and note the total cholesterol level, LDL (bad) cholesterol level, and HDL (good) cholesterol level. You want your blood to show low levels of LDL and high levels of HDL. Start smoking and cholesterol balance can be thrown off.
Your ratio of good to bad cholesterol can change when you smoke. For instance, your body can produce more LDL (bad) cholesterol that builds up inside your arteries. Additionally, your HDL (good) cholesterol level decreases when you smoke. Add a family history of heart disease and your risk of experiencing a heart attack or stroke grows even higher.
Smoking and Cholesterol – Toxins in Cigarettes
Toxins in cigarettes directly damage your blood vessels. When you smoke for a period, your arterial linings become irritated, and this causes the artery walls to stiffen and provides a rough area for the cholesterol to stick.
Nicotine, which is the addictive substance in cigarettes, speeds up your heart rate and causes your blood vessels to constrict. Your heart will not receive as much blood and the high pressure caused by your increased heart rate will damage the lining of your arteries.
Acrolein is a toxin in cigarette smoke that interferes with the LDL (bad) cholesterol molecule making it more dangerous. Acrolein can prevent HDL (good) cholesterol from doing its job.
Smoking and Cholesterol – The Solution
Smoking and cholesterol are a deadly combination, but you can make a difference in your health. By quitting smoking, you can cut your risk of heart disease in half within one year. Every year you are a non-smoker you improve your heart health.
Your total cholesterol level can decrease when you adopt healthy living habits such as not smoking, following a heart-healthy diet, getting regular physical activity, and supplementing your diet with cholesterol-lowering natural supplements.
Find other cholesterol information on lowering cholesterol apart from smoking and cholesterol or check out our homepage on all about Lowering Cholesterol
(1) American Heart Association (2011). Cigarette smoking and cardiovascular diseases. Retrieved from http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=4545