About the effects of smoking on HRV

Recently, we wrote about how coffee affects HRV. What about smoking cigarettes and HRV?

Many smokers claim that they smoke a cigarette for relaxation, but does a cigarette really help to relax? One cigarette probably won’t cause a serious illness, but it does suppress the activity of the parasympathetic nervous system for about half an hour.

As we know, due to the reduction in the activity of the parasympathetic system, the activity of the sympathetic system increases, which, in turn, hinders relaxation and recovery.

In the case of studying smoking and HRV, it is possible to identify the occurrence of short-term nicotine tolerance. If a smoker is asked to smoke several cigarettes within half an hour, initially the activity of the sympathetic nervous system increases, but then it declines – the body adapts to nicotine for a short period. However, the resources expended in this process require separate investigation.

Nicotine suppresses the parasympathetic nervous system.

We have already established the impact of smoking on HRV in the short term, but what happens in the case of chronic smokers?

In chronic smokers, there is not only a decrease in parasympathetic activity but also a decrease in sympathetic nervous system activity. Research suggests that restrictions become apparent after smoking more than 10 cigarettes per day, as reflected in changes in LF (low frequency).

Additionally, there is a reduction in the overall level of autonomic regulation, manifested through a decrease in RMSSD and HF (root mean square of successive differences and high frequency) in chronic smokers.

How does quitting smoking affect HRV?

Various studies have examined the consequences of smoking cessation (see Yotsukura et al., 1998). Just after 7 days, there is a significant increase in parasympathetic activity again (see Minami et al., 1999). The use of nicotine replacement products, such as nicotine patches, also provides better values for heart rate variability.

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