• 27 August 2018
  • Dr. Obinna Nwobi

According to the National Institutes of Health, cigarette smoking is the No. 1 preventable cause of death and illness in the United States, and is responsible for one in every five deaths. Smoking does more than clog your lungs with tar and increase your risk for lung cancer. It also damages your blood cells, veins, and heart.

A little goes a long way

You might think that since you cut down on cigarettes, you’re in the clear. You’re not. Light smoking and even second-hand smoke suffuses your veins with toxins that can lead to life-threatening vascular conditions, such as:

  • Atherosclerosis — clogged or stiffened arteries that slow down healthy blood flow
  • Coronary heart disease — arteries in the heart become blocked or narrowed
  • Stroke — loss of brain function due to interrupted blood flow
  • Abdominal aortic aneurysm — an enlargement in the main blood vessel in the abdomen that has the potential to rupture

Smoking-related blood vessel damage can also lead to peripheral artery disease (PAD), which makes the circulation in your legs and arms so sluggish that you may develop gangrene, and need to have a limb amputated. PAD can also cause a stroke or heart attack.

You have a greater than average risk of vein and artery damage if you also have diabetes, are obese, or take birth control pills. Even children who are exposed to second-hand smoke may develop damaged blood vessels, which increases their risk for disease and sudden death.

Seek immediate medical help if you experience the following symptoms of vein damage, such as:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • Numbness in your hands, feet, legs, or arms
  • Confusion or memory loss
  • Irregular or rapid heart beat

Dr. Obinna Nowabi is a vascular surgeon and PAD expert here at Vein Health Clinics in Oviedo, Winter Haven, and Apopka, Florida. If you have vascular symptoms or are worried about how smoking is affecting the health of your veins, contact our office for a consultation.

How your veins react to smoke

Cigarette smoke contains chemicals, such as nicotine and carbon monoxide, that make it harder for your veins and heart to work efficiently. Nicotine makes your heart work with such effort that it increases your heart’s need for oxygen. Unfortunately, carbon monoxide reduces the amount of oxygen that’s in your blood, placing a double burden on your heart.

Nicotine and carbon monoxide also damage your arterial walls, allowing the buildup of fatty deposits called plaques. The plaques narrow your blood vessels, so that your heart has has trouble pumping your blood through them.

Smoking also raises the level of bad cholesterol (LDL) in your blood while simultaneously decreasing the amount of health-promoting good cholesterol (HDL). The LDL-laden blood becomes thicker than normal, and more sluggish, too, so it can form clots and blockages that lead to heart attacks and stroke.

It isn’t pretty

One sign that your veins are already damaged is the presence of unsightly, painful varicose veins or even small spider veins in your face or legs. Visible veins have lost their ability to push blood forward efficiently, which causes the blood to backflow and pool. The pooled blood enlarges and twists your veins so that they show through your skin.

While smoking doesn’t necessarily cause varicose veins, you’re more likely to have them if you do smoke. Varicose veins also raise your risk for a condition called deep-vein thrombosis, which can lead to the development of life-threatening blood clots.

What happens when you quit

Finally, some good news: As soon as you quit smoking, your veins begin to repair themselves. That doesn’t mean you’re in the clear healthwise. Your habit may have created sufficient damage to still pose danger, which is why Dr. Nowabi recommends a vascular evaluation.

But here are some of the benefits you can expect when you stub out your last cigarette and ban smoke from your life:

  • Within just 20 minutes, your blood pressure and heart rate normalize
  • After a day, your risk for a heart attack decreases
  • Inside a month, your cholesterol levels become healthier
  • Within a year, your risk for heart attack decreases by 50%
  • Several years after you quit, your cardiovascular system will be as healthy as if you’d never smoked

Dr. Nowabi can help you quit smoking and restore your veins to health. In addition to being an expert at reversing PAD, he also treats varicose veins and spider veins with minimally invasive therapies or surgery.

To be sure your veins are healthy and functional, call Vein Health Clinics today. You can reach our friendly staff by phone or book a consultation online.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Long Does It Take For Blood Vessels To Heal After Quitting Smoking?

It takes 2 to 12 weeks for blood vessels to heal after quitting smoking, improving blood flow and reducing the risk of heart attack and stroke. However, it may take several years for the risk of smoking-related health problems to return to that of a non-smoker.

What Does Smoking Do To Your Veins?

Smoking increases inflammation and oxidative stress, leading to narrowed veins, reduced blood flow, and increased risk of conditions like peripheral artery disease, varicose veins, and blood clots. It can ultimately cause heart attacks and strokes.

Does Smoking Constrict Your Blood Vessels?

Yes, smoking constricts blood vessels by increasing inflammation and oxidative stress, leading to narrowed veins, reduced blood flow, and an increased risk of conditions like peripheral artery disease, varicose veins, and blood clots, which can ultimately cause heart attacks and strokes.

How Long After Quitting Smoking Does Blood Flow Increase?

After quitting smoking, blood flow increases within 20 minutes to 2 hours and continues to improve over the following weeks and months. Within a year, the risk of developing smoking-related heart disease decreases by 50%, and within 5-15 years, it returns to that of a non-smoker.

Does Smoking Decrease Vascularity?

Yes, smoking damages blood vessels by causing constriction, reducing blood flow, and ultimately decreasing vascularity. This can lead to conditions like peripheral artery disease, which restricts blood flow to the limbs, and tissue damage in other body areas.

Can Blood Vessels Heal After Quitting Smoking?

Yes, blood vessels can heal after quitting smoking. Once you quit smoking, your body will begin to repair the damage caused by smoking, and the blood vessels will start to recover, leading to improved blood flow and a reduced risk of heart disease and other smoking-related conditions.

Does Smoking Affect Varicose Veins?

Smoking can worsen varicose veins by damaging the blood vessels and reducing blood flow, making the veins more prominent and painful. Quitting smoking can help improve varicose veins and reduce the risk of complications.

How To Improve Blood Circulation After Quitting Smoking?

After quitting smoking, improving blood circulation can be achieved through regular exercise, maintaining a healthy diet, managing blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and avoiding prolonged periods of sitting or standing.

Does Smoking Make Your Veins Smaller?

Smoking can cause the blood vessels, including veins, to constrict, which may decrease blood flow and make them appear smaller. Long-term smoking can also damage the blood vessel walls, making them less elastic and more prone to developing blood clots.

How To Clean Your Arteries After Quitting Smoking?

After quitting smoking, cleaning your arteries can be achieved through a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. Additionally, regular exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, and managing blood pressure and cholesterol levels can also improve arterial health.

How Long Does Nicotine Constrict Blood Vessels?

Nicotine constricts blood vessels immediately after smoking, which can last for up to several hours. This constriction can reduce blood flow and increase the risk of developing blood clots, which can lead to serious health problems over time.

Does Smoking Thin Your Blood?

Although smoking can increase the likelihood of clotting, it does not actually thin the blood. Smoking weakens the blood vessel walls and raises blood levels of clotting factors, which increases the likelihood of clot formation. This can increase the risk of heart attacks, strokes, and other cardiovascular diseases.

About The Author

Dr. Obinna Nwobi

Dr. Obinna Nwobi is a board certified vascular surgeon, who chose to practice in an underserved area in Florida. In a field that graduates only 100 new vascular surgeons a year, Dr. Nwobi is an exemplary vascular surgeon who worked for the Indian Health Services, Veterans Affairs Hospital, and large private and public hospitals.


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