Smoking and Cholesterol
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Does smoking affect your cholesterol?

Your daily habits eventually determine your overall health. If you have habits that are nurturing your body then there are fewer chances of you being prone to serious disorders. However, if you do not live an ideal lifestyle and your habits are deteriorating then there are high chances that you might face consequences of it. One of the most common negative habits that people are developing these days is smoking. When you think of smoking, usually lung disorders might strike your mind but smoking is linked to other problems like high cholesterol levels, strokes, heart disorders, etc. Cigarettes consist of toxic compounds that are not good for your health. The following articles focus on everything you need to know about how smoking affects your cholesterol levels and puts you at risk of developing serious diseases. 

What effect does smoking have on health

Smoking is injurious to our health and the statement stands true due to the toxins that reach our bodies while we smoke cigarettes. As per studies, there are 267 million Tobacco users in India who smoke it in the form of cigarettes and bidis. As the rate of smokers is high, so is the rate of diseases caused by smoking. Smoking cigarettes drastically affects your body’s condition over time. Some of the diseases that develop as a result of smoking cigarettes include chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (lung disorder), heart attacks, certain cancers of the lung, liver, and bladder, rheumatoid arthritis, and other inflammatory immune problems. Added to that it also causes fertility issues in women, deteriorates bone health, may cause type 2 diabetes, etc. 

There exists a plethora of problems that are caused due to smoking and therefore, one must avoid smoking at any cost. 

What effects does smoking have on cholesterol?

Smoking and cholesterol are highly interlinked. When you smoke a cigarette, your lungs absorb certain toxins released from the cigarette which lower the good cholesterol in the body (HDL) and increase the bad cholesterol (LDL) that leads to complications. Another adverse effect of smoking is that it makes the blood thicker and sticky in consistency which makes it more likely to clot. That eventually narrows the arteries and causes blockages. The blocked blood vessels due to plaque buildup cause a rise in bad cholesterol and can cause you to experience cardiovascular diseases. 

Additionally, cigarettes contain a toxin called acrolein that impacts your cholesterol levels negatively. This compound disrupts the smooth transportation of bad cholesterol (LDL) back to the liver where the body gets rid of it. As a result, smoking not only spikes your bad cholesterol but also makes the good cholesterol ineffective in making the body get rid of the bad cholesterol. Smoking puts you at a higher risk of developing the problem of hyperlipidemia (raised cholesterol levels). Being a smoker if you have a family history of high cholesterol, lead a sedentary lifestyle and if you are obese or overweight, your risk doubles. Therefore, to maintain ideal cholesterol levels it is suggested that one should quit smoking. 

Acrolein's Effect on Cholesterol from Cigarettes               

Acrolein which is a compound released when you smoke a cigarette impedes the enzyme which is responsible to keep the LDL level unaffected. In the absence of this enzyme, the LDL gets exposed to oxidation which alters the molecular structure of LDL. As a result of this alteration of the molecular structure of LDL, the immune system loses its ability to identify LDL. Further, as the immune system is longer capable of recognizing LDL it releases white blood cells and other substances to heal the damage caused and which eventually leads to inflammation and buildup of these harmful substances in the affected area. All of this spikes the cholesterol levels in the body. The presence of oxidized LDL in the blood vessels increases the chances of a person experiencing a heart attack or other cardiovascular problems. 

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What if you smoke and have high cholesterol already?

 If you have high cholesterol levels then you are already at risk of developing complications and smoking cigarettes will increase your risk of developing serious medical disasters. You must understand the link between smoking and cholesterol before you go on smoking with elevated cholesterol levels. Excessive smoking leads to plaque buildup in the bloodstream that causes the narrowing and clogging of arteries which eventually becomes the prime reason for cardiovascular problems. Having high cholesterol levels and still smoking cigarettes worsens the condition further. It makes you prone to having severe medical issues caused due to excess LDL levels in the body and insufficient HDL levels. Some severe complications include heart attack, stroke, coronary artery disease, etc. 

Does smoking raise the risk of heart attacks?

Smoking has many negative impacts on your body and one of the severe impacts is experiencing a heart attack due to high cholesterol levels. As smoking reduces the high-density lipoproteins (Good cholesterol) it impairs the ability of the body to get rid of low-density lipoprotein (LDL). HDL takes care of the process of transporting bad cholesterol from the blood vessels to the liver where the body can release it. As there is an insufficient amount of HDL in the body to carry out this process, the build-up of plaque in the bloodstream caused due to bad cholesterol increases. Excessive plaque buildup leads to blood clots and strokes. HDL has positive effects in protecting your body against heart diseases. Therefore, your body must have an ideal level of HDL cholesterol. 

Over time, the plaque builds up can also cause inflammation in the arteries and makes your heart less efficient in pumping blood across the body. Smoking makes the presence of LDL in the bloodstream further toxic and increases plaque accumulation. Having such a condition increases your risk of having a heart attack. Hence, quitting smoking lowers your risk of experiencing heart attacks and strokes. 

Can stopping cigarettes reverse heart damage?

 Any positive change toward maintaining your health produces effective results. If you decide to quit smoking and fortunately you are successful in doing so, there is a high chance that you can reverse the damage caused to your heart due to your past habit of cigarette smoking. You can yield quick and effective results in achieving your health goals once you stop smoking. 

 Additionally, this positive change will help you to substance the results in the long term and reduce your risk of developing cardiovascular disorders. If you are consistent in saying no to smoking then with time you can even enable your body to eradicate the damage caused to your blood vessels due to smoking earlier in life. As per studies, if you stay consistent in quitting smoking you’ll be able to see a rise in good cholesterol (HDL) levels just in the first three weeks of adapting to this change:

  • Post 1 year of quitting smoking will lower your risk of having heart disease by 50 %. 
  • Post 15 years of maintaining the habit of not smoking will make your body the same as a person who never smoked. 

Apart from helping you to lower your cholesterol levels, quitting smoking will prevent you from experiencing other health complications linked to smoking cigarettes. For instance, smoking damages some of your senses like smell, taste, etc. However, within 2 days of being cigarette-free can make your senses go back to normal. 

Some other benefits of not smoking include improved oxygen levels in the blood, lowered risk of certain cancers, reduced inflammation, better immunity, etc. 

How to quit smoking?

 It is not a cakewalk to quit smoking. Quitting addictions like smoking requires a lot of dedication and consistency. The addiction to smoking cigarettes can be assessed from two different perspectives. Firstly, it’s a nicotine addiction which is a result of chemical changes that take place when you smoke, and secondly, it is a behavioral addiction which is psychological. However, this does not mean that there is no way out from these addictions. Once you start seeing the results of being a non-smoker you’ll automatically refuse to go back to smoking. Being successful in maintaining this lifestyle change will drastically reduce your risk of having heart attacks, strokes, and other health issues other than the ones that are caused due to abnormal cholesterol levels. For your aid, here are certain tips that will help you to be a non-smoker. 

1. Resort to medications

The craving that you experience can be reduced by intaking certain medicines like Varenicline (Chantix) and bupropion (Zyban). These medicines cause chemical reactions that help your brain to lower the symptoms caused due to quitting smoking. They should be taken only after consulting a doctor as prescribed by them.

2. Other aids available for quitting smoking

If your body is addicted to nicotine then you can provide it to the body in a way that you do not end up absorbing toxins. Some such aids include gums, nasal sprays, skin patches, etc. These can help you to deal with the symptoms caused due to withdrawal from smoking.  

3. Take professional help

In some cases, taking professional help becomes necessary as the body is too addicted to going back to normalcy. Discuss the situation with your healthcare expert who can provide you with options to deal with the withdrawal and can prescribe the needful medicines. 

4. Visit a specialist

Some specialists solely work towards helping people to quit smoking. They can provide you with the essential resources that will make your journey easier. You can consult your doctor who can recommend you to a reliable specialist.

5. Join support groups

Trying to quit smoking without seeking support can be a daunting task. Joining a support group will help to connect with people who are experiencing the same feelings as you and relating to them will encourage you. Additionally, you can help someone else in the group trying to quit smoking. 


Smoking cigarettes is not good for your health. Although you might get momentary satisfaction, the long-term consequences are bad. Smoking causes numerous health problems such as lung diseases, asthma, heart attack, etc. It specifically impacts your cholesterol levels. It increases the bad cholesterol that causes plaque buildup and reduces the good cholesterol that can help your body to get rid of the plaque buildup. 

If you continue to smoke with your cholesterol levels being elevated there are high chances that your arteries would clog and you might experience a heart attack, stroke, and other cardiovascular diseases. 

Smoking and cholesterol are not a good match when it comes to staying healthy. However, if you decide to quit smoking and stay consistent in doing so, you might make your body toxin-free again and within a few years, your body might heal the damage caused due to years of smoking. Added to that, it can improve your entire health and bring a positive change in your life. 

 Although quitting smoking is not an easy task, you can resort to medications, support groups, and an array of other methods that can help you to quit smoking and maintain your cholesterol levels, and prevent other health disasters caused due to smoking cigarettes. 


1. Does smoking increase cholesterol?

 The compound called acrolein that is absorbed by our body while smoking leads to an increase in the bad cholesterol levels in the body and drastically reduces the good cholesterol present in the body. This leads to the narrowing and clogging of arteries which is the prime cause of heart-related problems. 

2. Can quitting smoking lower your cholesterol?

 Yes, quitting smoking and staying consistent in doing so can help your body cure the damage caused due to years of smoking. Going back to normalcy will increase the HDL (Good cholesterol) levels in the body which eventually would help you to maintain ideal cholesterol levels and prevent medical issues. 

3. How quickly does quitting smoking lower cholesterol?

 Within the first three weeks of quitting smoking, your good cholesterol levels start to increase. If you stay consistent for 3 years the damage caused due to smoking reduces to half. Additionally, post-15 years of not smoking will make your health the same as a non-smoker. 

4. Do arteries clear after quitting smoking?

 Yes, over a time of a minimum of 10 years, your arteries start to clear up. You cannot expect this change overnight as the body requires time to go back to being normal. If you are smoking for many years and decide to quit, your body will take time to get rid of the plaque buildup and become toxin-free. 

5. How long does it take for nicotine to leave your system?

Usually, it takes 2-3 days (minimum of 72 hours) for nicotine to leave your body. You might start experiencing the symptoms of withdrawal after 2-3 days of staying tobacco-free. Resort to your healthcare expert if you find it too difficult to deal with the withdrawal symptoms. 


This website's content is provided only for educational reasons and is not meant to be a replacement for professional medical advice. Due to individual differences, the reader should contact their physician to decide whether the material is applicable to their case.