November 23, 2021

A healthier heart begins on the Great American Smokeout

By The Cigarroa Clinic

This year’s Great American Smokeout will be observed this Thursday, November 18th. It is an opportunity for people who smoke to commit to healthy, smoke-free lives by encouraging them to use the date to take that first step in quitting. And while most associate smoking with lung cancer or breathing issues such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)—at the Cigarroa Clinic, when our patients quit smoking, they are taking that first step towards a healthy heart by reducing their chance of many serious heart conditions that come from smoking, some that can even lead to death.

“According to the American Heart Association, CVD (Cardiovascular Disease) accounts for about 800,000 U.S. deaths every year,” said Ricardo Cigarroa II, Interventional Cardiologist. “Of those, nearly 20 percent are due to cigarette smoking.”


Many ask how inhaling a cigarette can affect your heart. The answer to that lies in what goes into cigarette smoke.

“More than 7,000 chemicals go into the mix of cigarette smoke,” explained Cigarroa. “And when inhaled, the toxic mix interferes with the delivery of oxygen-rich blood to your heart and the rest of your body.”


In addition to permanently damaging your heart and blood vessels, cigarette smoke can also cause cardiovascular disease by changing your blood chemistry and causing plaque to build up in the arteries. This can lead to a disease called atherosclerosis.

“When atherosclerosis sets in, it becomes more difficult for blood cells to move through arteries and other blood vessels to get to vital organs like the heart and brain,” said Cigarroa. “This can create blood clots that can ultimately lead to heart attack, stroke or even death.”


Unfortunately, blood clots from smoking are not the only condition to worry about. Smoking can also lead to Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD), which is the narrowing of blood vessels which results in a decrease of blood flow to arms, legs, hands, and feet.

“When a patient is diagnosed with severe PAD, the outcome can be limb amputation,” said Cigarroa. “And smoking is the leading preventable cause of this condition.”

Another serious cardiovascular condition that can be caused by smoking is an abdominal aortic aneurysm, a bulge or swelling in the aorta—the main blood vessel that runs from the heart down through the chest and stomach. It can get bigger over time and if it ruptures, can result in sudden death.


While smoking is a direct cause of cardiovascular disease and death, you do not have to be a smoker to be at risk. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (USDHHS), nonsmokers who are regularly exposed to secondhand smoke have a 25 to 30 percent increased risk of coronary heart disease than those not exposed. In fact, 30,000 U.S. coronary heart disease deaths per year are caused by secondhand smoke. Secondhand smoke exposure also increases your risk of having a heart attack or stroke.


The earlier you can quit smoking, the better. In fact, research from the USDHHS shows that:

  • Twenty minutes after you quit smoking, your heart rate drops.
  • Just 12 hours after quitting smoking, the carbon monoxide level in the blood drops to normal, allowing more oxygen to vital organs like your heart.
  • Within four years of quitting, your risk of stroke drops to that of lifetime nonsmokers.


If you need help to quit smoking, there are resources available at the American Cancer Society’s webpage at

For more information on cardiovascular disease or for a free screening for Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) or Peripheral Vascular Disease (PVD), call the Cigarroa Clinic for a same-day appointment at (956) 725-1228. You can also follow the Cigarroa Clinic on FB and Instagram or visit their website at

As always, the minute you feel you may be experiencing a heart attack, call 911 or head to your nearest Emergency Room.