A recent study found that people who quit smoking 15 year ago or more saw their risk of heart failure drop to normal levels, as if they never smoked.
Study authors said that their findings were consistent with numerous past studies including those conducted by the U.S. Surgeon General.
On the other side, heavy smokers needed more than 15 years to reduce their risk of heart failure and death to normal levels. Heavy smokers were defined as people smoking at least one cigarette pack on a daily basis for more than 32 years.
Dr. Ali Ahmed, lead author of the study, suggested that smokers should either smoke less or quit earlier to attain quicker the full health benefits of a person who has never smoked in their entire life.
During their research, scientists dug into data available during the Cardiovascular Health Study, which surveyed more than 2,550 seniors, of whom about 630 were self-declared active smokers and nearly 1,300 former smokers that had ditched their habit at least 15 years ago. About 300 of former smokers were heavy smokers.
The Cardiovascular Health Study found that 21 percent of non-smokers, 21 percent of former smokers who had quit more than 15 years ago, and 30 percent of heavy smokers were diagnosed with heart failure.
But when the research team adjusted the results for several risk factors such as other health conditions, sex, age, medications and fitness level, the data suggested that current smokers had a 50 percent increased chance of having heart failure than people who never smoked or former smokers.
Moreover, current smoker had a double chance of dieing from any cause than non-smokers had, while former heavy smokers had a 26 percent higher chance to die than non-smokers.
Dr. Ahmed explained that smoking thickens arteries, which increases blood pressure and risk of heart attack or clots. But when smokers quit, their body fights off the plaque on the arteries, so the risk of dieing of a heart disease returns to normal level over time.
Dr. Gerasimos Siasos, who was not involved in the study, said that the latest research was the first attempt to investigate the “amount and duration” of smoking and its effects on former smokers’ health long after they had quit.
Study authors said that there was good news for former heavy smokers, too, despite them being unable to achieve the health benefits of never smokers. Their heart failure risk decreased dramatically compared to that of active smokers.
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