WASHINGTON DC, United States, Wednesday July 1, 2015 – New research has revealed that smokers who quit the habit for 15 years reduce their risk of heart failure or death to levels similar to those of someone who has never smoked.
But while the results were encouraging for all former smokers, those deemed heavy smokers – who had smoked at least a pack a day for 32 years or more – were found to still have a slightly elevated risk.
According to Dr Ali Ahmed from the Washington DC VA Medical Center: “While all individuals who quit smoking will benefit from a decreased chance of death, to achieve the full complement of health benefits of smoking cessation of one who has never smoked, smokers need to smoke less and quit early, and for those are not smokers – never start smoking.”
Heart disease is the top killer of both women AND men. Quit smoking to lower your risk. http://t.co/pyh8gsyeNo
— USA.gov (@USAgov) June 24, 2015
Dr Ahmed and his colleagues used the ongoing Cardiovascular Health Study of adults over age 65 to arrive at their findings, which were published in the journal Circulation: Heart Failure.
The scientists analysed data from 2,556 people who had never smoked, 629 current smokers, and 1,297 former smokers who had quit at least 15 years before.
Of those who had quit, 312 had been heavy smokers, with 32 “pack-years” or more of smoking. About 21 per cent of people who had never smoked and 21 per cent of former smokers experienced heart failure after 13 years. Almost 30 per cent of former smokers with at least 32 pack-years suffered heart failure, however.
When other factors like age, sex, race, education, other health conditions and medications were taken into account, current smokers were about 50 per cent more likely to have heart failure than people who had never smoked or former smokers.
“When one smokes, it induces atherosclerosis, or the build-up of plaque in the arteries, which narrows the arteries and increases the risk of blood clot or heart attack,” Dr Ahmed told Reuters Health. “However, when one quits smoking, the build-up of plaque and risk of blood of clots decreases, allowing one’s cardiovascular risk to return to normal over time.”
Over the same time period, current smokers were twice as likely to die from any cause, compared to people who had never smoked, and former heavy smokers were about 26 per cent more likely than never smokers to die.
“A healthy diet teamed w/ regular exercise & not smoking can eliminate 80 per cent of heart disease & the majority of cancer cases.” #fitfam
— FoundationForSuccess (@FoundForSuccess) June 28, 2015
Dr Bich Tran, a public health and epidemiology researcher at Australia’s University of New South Wales, said that quitting smoking also reduces the risk of lung cancer and other cancers of the upper gastrointestinal tract.
Dr Tran, who was not part of the new study, said that disease risk starts to decrease as soon as a smoker quits, even in the case of older smokers.
“Our body can heal itself. Within 12 hours or few days after the smoking, the level of carbon monoxide in blood will decline and the circulatory system will start repairing the damage,” she said.