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The Disturbing Link between Heart Disease and Smoking

The Disturbing Link between Heart Disease and Smoking

During the pandemic, employers and health plans are placing an increased focus on chronic conditions, and for good reason.

Ongoing issues like heart disease can drive up health care utilization and costs. Plus, those with chronic conditions are at much higher risk for complications with COVID-19.

To better support the health of members remotely, some health plans, such as Humana, are launching new digital programs specifically for chronic conditions. And the timing couldn’t be better. The percentage of consumers, across all generations, who are now willing to use digital tools has increased from before COVID-19.

But while digital condition-specific programs are trending, these efforts will have limited impact if tobacco cessation isn’t addressed, too, through a supportive, remotely accessible solution.

For starters, let’s take a look about heart disease and smoking.

Facts about Heart Disease and Tobacco Use

The combination of heart disease and tobacco can have profound impact, and it’s not just COVID-19 that brings increased risk of serious illness.

With cardiovascular disease, smoking makes the condition worse by putting carbon monoxide into the blood, causing less oxygen to reach the heart.

At the same time, smoking speeds up the heart rate, necessitating more oxygen. Over time, this ugly cycle can cause considerable strain on the heart, increasing the chances of heart attack and stroke.

Managing a chronic condition is difficult on its own, but when you add in smoking, that can compound health risks and negative outcomes.

Consider these facts:

  • Smokers are 2 to 4 times more likely to get heart disease than nonsmokers.
  • Smoking doubles a person’s risk for stroke.
  • Vaping and smoking can cause a similar level of damage to the arteries.
  • Long-term use of smokeless tobacco can increase risk of dying of heart disease and stroke.

Heart disease and smoking

EX Program Offers Text Support for Heart Disease and Smoking

With the complexity of chronic condition management comes the need for tailored solutions. Helping people quit means addressing more than their smoking or tobacco use behavior, it also means understanding their specific needs as someone who struggles with a chronic condition.

That’s why the EX Program offers text messaging support for those with cardiovascular disease to help them navigate through quitting in a way that’s meaningful, personalized, and effective. Text content is developed in collaboration with Mayo Clinic, and designed to engage these unique populations, with EX Coaches providing tips as well.

With all the risks that face them, people with these conditions need this kind of support right now. The longer they smoke and struggle to quit, the more exposed they’ll be to threats like COVID-19 and comorbidities that make their already challenging conditions even worse.

Want to learn more? Visit our program page to learn about how you can help tobacco users quit for good.


Megan Jacobs, MPH
Megan Jacobs, MPH

Managing Director of Product, Innovations

Megan Jacobs is responsible for the design, delivery, and evaluation of the EX Program. Most recently, Jacobs led the EX Program team responsible for the first evidence-based text messaging program to help e-cigarette users of all ages quit. She formed her expertise in mHealth interventions and public health campaigns with her work at the University of Michigan Health Service, DC Department of Health, and the National Vaccine Program Office. Her public health work over the past 15 years has applied technology to behavior change ranging from adolescent sexual health to vaccinations. Jacobs received her Master of Public Health from the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University and is also a graduate of the University of Michigan.

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