Cigarette smoking is a powerful cardiovascular risk factor and smoking cessation is the single most effective lifestyle measure for the prevention of a large number of cardiovascular diseases. Impairment of endothelial function, arterial stiffness, inflammation, lipid modification as well as an alteration of antithrombotic and prothrombotic factors are smoking-related major determinants of initiation, and acceleration of the atherothrombotic process, leading to cardiovascular events. Cigarette smoking acutely exerts an hypertensive effect, mainly through the stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system. As concern the impact of chronic smoking on blood pressure, available data do not put clearly in evidence a direct causal relationship between these two cardiovascular risk factors, a concept supported by the evidence that no lower blood pressure values have been observed after chronic smoking cessation. Nevertheless, smoking, affecting arterial stiffness and wave reflection might have greater detrimental effect on central blood pressure, which is more closely related to target organ damage than brachial blood pressure. Hypertensive smokers are more likely to develop severe forms of hypertension, including malignant and renovascular hypertension, an effect likely due to an accelerated atherosclerosis.
Blood pressure, smoking, epidemiology, large arteries, stiffness
Department of Internal Medicine, University of Pisa, Via Roma, 67, 56100 Pisa, Italy.