A new study has come out that reveals smokers who quit over 15 years ago have the same risks of heart failure and death as those who have never smoked. The study however did show that people who were heavy smoking, which is labeled as a pack a day for 32 or more years, did still have the elevated risk. The elevated risk for the heavy smokers was still present even if they had quit over 15 years ago, and this was really a surprise for the researchers. The results of the study really show a need for more research on the quantity and duration of smoking related to health consequences.
Even though all people who stop smoking do have some decreased risk of death and other health issues, people who smoke need to smoke less than a pack a day, and stop early in your life in order to get the benefits of those who don’t smoke. For this study, the researchers used the Cardiovascular Health Study of adults over the age of 65, with over 2,556 people who never smoked, 629 current smokers, and 1297 former smokers who quit 15 or more years ago. Out of the people who had quit, 312 were heavy smokers with over 32 pack-years or more. When there was a follow up 13 years later, 21 percent of people who never smoked and 21 percent of former smokers had heart failure. The former smokers who had 32 pack-years or more ended up with a 30 percent rate of heart failure. Once the researchers accounted for other factors like race, education, age, sex, and health conditions, the current smokers had a 50 percent more likely chance to have heart failure than the former or never smokers. In the same time period, the current smokers were twice as likely to die from other causes compared to those who never smoked and the former heavy smokers were 26 percent more likely than the never-smokers to die.
The reason that the cardiovascular risk returns to normal for former smokers of 15 years or more is because the buildup of plaque and the risk of blood clots goes down. This was the first study to really look at the role of smoking and former smoking and the duration of smoking when it comes to the health benefits of prolonged smoking cessation. While a lot of people have discomforts when they stop smoking, such as weight gain and trouble sleeping, this study really highlights the reasons why you need to stop smoking sooner than later. While heavy smokers might not achieve the full health benefits of the non smokers, the cardiovascular risk is a lot lower than of those who currently smoke. Even 72 days after stopping smoking, the level of the carbon monoxide in the blood decreases, and the circulatory system begins repairs. The risk of lung cancer and other cancers also decreases, and it’s almost as soon as you quit smoking.
This research study shows that former heavy smokers and current heavy smokers should be the target of cardiovascular screenings, since they are the groups at the highest risk of developing heart problems. Smokers who cannot quit, even after trying several methods over a long period of time at least need to cut down the amount of cigarettes they are smoking, and that can help them get out of the heavy smoker group where the health benefits are not as good. Researchers say that if you cannot stop smoking, don’t feel like you are doomed to just die early or get cancer, just work a little at a time as far as cutting down on the amount of cigarettes you are smoking everyday. If you really cannot quit, it is really important to cut down because this study is proof that heavy smoking, even if you stop, still has severe health risks. If you are a moderate smoker, then you will see some of the benefits highlighted in this study, but obviously it gets better with the less you smoke and the sooner you stop smoking after you started smoking.