Artery Damage

Many people continue to smoke, thinking they can give up if and when signs of damage become obvious. Now there is new research which shows that smoking causes serious damage from very early in life. (1)

The study was based on ten years of research funded by the US National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, which is part of the US National Institutes of Health.

The research involved more than 1400 men and women aged 15 to 34 years who had an autopsy performed within 48 hours of death from accident, murder or suicide. Pathologists examined the large blood vessels of these young men and women for atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), and took blood to measure levels of cholesterol and thiocyanate, which is a marker for cigarette smoking.

They found that those who smoked had more early signs of atherosclerosis in the aorta, which is the main blood vessel in the abdomen. Atherosclerosis leads to heart disease, strokes and other forms of vascular disease.

It is never too late to quit smoking.

Artery Q&A

How does smoking damage my blood vessels?

It makes your blood vessels and blood cells sticky, which allows cholesterol and other dangerous fatty material to build up. (2,3)

If I quit smoking, will my arteries improve?

Yes. If you stop smoking, the rate of worsening will slow and, in most people, the damage can dissipate. (4-6)

1. Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology 1997; 95-106.
2. Circulation 1987;76:6-14.
3. American Heart Journal 1987; 113:1006-1010.
4. Circulation 1992;86:1664-1669.
5. New England Journal of Medicine 1992;326:1406-1416.
6. The Health Benefits of Smoking Cessation. US Department of Health and Human Services 1990:240

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Page last reviewed: 04 March 2014