News / Health

Smokers Who Quit May Cut Heart Risk Faster Than Previously Thought

FILE - A man lights a cigarette in Los Angeles, California.
FILE - A man lights a cigarette in Los Angeles, California.
TEXT SIZE - +
Reuters
— Some cigarette smokers over 65 years old who kick the habit may be able to reduce their risk of dying from heart-related problems to the level of those who never smoked far faster than previously believed, according to new research presented on Wednesday.

Previous research found that older former smokers who had consumed less than 32 pack years of cigarettes could reduce their risk of dying from heart disease to the level of lifelong nonsmokers after 15 years.

The pack year measure is derived by multiplying the number of cigarettes smoked per day by the number of years a person was a smoker. For example, 32 pack years would be 3.2 packs a day for 10 years or two packs a day for 16 years.

“The new finding is if you smoke less than 32 pack years, you might become like never-smokers much sooner than 15 years,” said Dr. Ali Ahmed, who reported the findings at the American Heart Association scientific meeting in Dallas.

Many people in the study lowered the risk of developing heart failure, or risk of dying from heart failure, heart attacks and strokes to the same level as those who never smoked in nearly half the time as previous research had indicated.

“For half of them, it was eight years after cessation,” said Ahmed, a professor of cardiovascular disease at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Medicine. “Even for the heavier smokers, who smoked more than 32 pack years, compared to current smokers, they will significantly reduce the risk of total mortality by 35 percent [by quitting], so there's a positive message for everybody.”

Cutting the risk to the level of never-smokers was a much higher bar than comparison with current smokers, he added.

Researchers compiled their data by analyzing 13 years of medical information from the Cardiovascular Health Study begun in 1989 and sponsored by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. They compared 853 people who quit smoking 15 or fewer years before with 2,557 people who never smoked cigarettes. Of the former smokers, 319 had smoked less than 32 pack years.

Smoking remains the most preventable cause of early death in the United States and elsewhere. So the main message remains: “If you smoke, quit and quit early,” said Ahmed.

But even those who do not stop smoking until they reach the Medicare-eligible age of 65 appear likely to derive heart health benefits from stopping.

While the heart-related mortality benefits seen in the study seem clear, researchers said, lung damage is not as easily reversible. Those who smoked less than 32 pack years and quit up to 15 or more years ago were still at higher risk of dying from lung cancer, emphysema or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

You May Like

Photogallery Pope's Easter Prayer: Peace in Ukraine, Syria

Pontiff also calls for end to terrorist acts in Nigeria, violence in Iraq, and success in peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians More

Abdullah Holds Lead in Afghan Presidential Election

Country's Election Commission says that with half of the ballots counted, former FM remains in the lead with 44 percent of the vote More

Russia-Ukraine Crisis Could Trigger Cyber War

As tensions between Kyiv and Moscow escalate, so too has frequency of online attacks targeting government, news and financial sites More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid