Understanding Smoking’s Effect on Your Blood Vessels
March 15, 2023

Understanding Smoking’s Effect on Your Blood Vessels

Among other side effects, smoking does cause blood vessels to constrict. This can lead to sometimes life-threatening events like a heart attack or stroke.

Smoking is linked to a wide range of negative health effects, including heart disease. The chemicals in cigarette smoke irritate blood vessels, causing inflammation and swelling.

Quitting smoking allows your heart vessels to heal and lowers your risk of serious heart conditions.

Let’s look deeper at how smoking can affect your blood vessels and circulation.

Does smoking constrict or dilate blood vessels?

Smoking cigarettes makes it harder for blood to travel through your body. This happens because the chemicals found in cigarettes irritate your blood vessels and cause inflammation and swelling.

When the lining of your blood vessels is inflamed, the body builds up plaque over the inflamed area as a repair. This results in plaque building up along the walls. This results in chronic narrowing and stiffening. It can also lead to blockages and increase your risk of serious heart disease.

Additionally, smoking is linked to an increase in blood pressure. High blood pressure puts additional stress on your blood vessels, which can lead to further stiffness and plaque buildup.

Even nicotine gum is only safe in small amounts. Prolonged use leads to blood vessel irritation.

What about vaping?

This risk isn’t limited to traditional cigarettes. Research  has found that vaping, or the use of e-cigarettes, also affects blood vessels. Although these products are often considered safer, they still contain chemicals that irritate blood vessels and can lead to heart conditions.

What about cannabis smoking?

Data about cannabis smoking is newer and more limited because of recent legalization, but research  has shown similar results.

Frequent cannabis smoking is linked to constricted blood vessels and a higher risk of heart disease.

The effects of constricted blood vessels due to smoking

Blood vessel constriction can have serious effects over time. It can damage your heart and lead to conditions, such as:

  • Coronary artery disease (CAD): CAD is a condition that occurs when your arteries cannot bring enough blood to your heart. It can cause chest pain and lightheadedness. CAD increases the risk of medical emergencies, such as heart attacks, strokes, and blood clots.
  • Heart failure: Heart failure is a condition that happens when your heart is unable to pump enough blood to the rest of your body. It leads to symptoms, such as shortness of breath, fatigue, and swelling in your arms and legs.
  • Peripheral arterial disease (PAD): PAD causes your blood vessels to narrow too much to deliver the right amount of blood to your limbs. This leads to symptoms, such as numbness, weakness, and pain in your legs.
  • Heart attack: A heart attack happens when the blood flow to your heart is blocked. When your heart doesn’t receive blood, your heart muscle begins to die. That’s why a heart attack always needs urgent medical treatment.
  • Stroke: A stroke occurs when a blood vessel in the brain bursts or a blood clot forms. Without a supply of blood, brain cells begin to die. A stroke is always a medical emergency.

Do blood vessels heal after quitting smoking?

Your body begins to heal as soon as you quit smoking, but it takes years for the damage to reverse fully. The exact timetable depends on how long and how frequently you smoked, but as a rule, your blood vessels will begin to widen again after you’ve gone about 5 years  without a cigarette.

By 15 years  after your last cigarette, your risk of CAD will be almost the same as a nonsmoker’s risk. That might sound like a long time, but every year without smoking lowers your risk and lets your blood vessels heal.

After just a year of not smoking, you’ll have dropped your risk of CAD by 50%. After about 5 years , your stroke risk will drop to the risk of a nonsmoker.


Smoking is linked to a higher risk of heart disease. When you smoke, the chemicals irritate your blood vessels, leading to inflammation and swelling.

This makes it easier for plaque to build up, putting you at risk for chronic heart conditions as well as for medical emergencies, such as heart attack and stroke.

Quitting smoking can heal your blood vessels and reduce your risk.

Let MD Spiro help your practice, and help your patients quit.  Once and for all.