According to Reuters, former smokers that give up the tobacco habit could reduce their heart risks much faster than anyone ever thought. New research was presented on Wednesday that showed former smokers over age 65 could lower the risk of death from heart problems to the same level of those that never smoked and it could happen at a faster pace than doctors ever anticipated.
In determining risk factors, research teams look at the “pack year” of each former smoker. To find the pack year measurement, the researchers multiplied the number of cigarettes smoked per day times the number of years the person smoked. So if a person is classified as “32 pack years”, that would mean that he smoked 3.2 packs of cigarettes a day for 10 years or two packs a cigarettes a day for 16 years.
Former research about tobacco related heart risks showed that smokers with less that 32 pack years could reduce their risk of dying from heart factors to the same level of nonsmokers, but it would take 15 years. However, the new research shows that those numbers might not be accurate.
According to Dr. Ali Ahmed, “The new finding is if you smoke less than 32 pack years, you might become like never-smokers much sooner than 15 years.” Dr. Ahmed is a professor of cardiovascular disease at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Medicine. He reported the new findings at the scientific meeting of the American Heart Association in Dallas.
Dr. Ahmed said that many participants were able to reduce their risk of heart failure, stroke, and heart attacks to the same level as nonsmokers within half the time that previous studies indicated. “For half of them, it was eight years after cessation,” he said.
“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 be 35 percent (by quitting), so there’s a positive message for everybody.” He went on to explain that reducing risk to the same level as people that have never smoked is much more difficult to attain than beating the risks of current smokers.
This new research was compiled after studying 13 years of medical data. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute sponsored the study and began collecting data in 1989. Over time, the researchers compiled information on 853 individuals that quit smoking and 2,557 people that had never smoked at all. From the group of former smokers, 319 smoked less than 32 pack years.
Dr. Ahmed summed up the research by saying, “If you smoke, quit and quit early.” The fact remains that tobacco smoking is the most preventable cause of early death. However, this study offers hope to senior citizens that are still lighting up. It’s never too late to make a change. This study shows that even those that do not stop smoking until age 65 are still likely to get health heart benefits by stopping.
Even though giving up cigarettes can reduce the risk for heart related death, lung damage is another story. It’s not easy to reverse the damage people sustain to the lungs after smoking for years and years. Researchers found that people who smoked less than 32 pack years were still at higher risk of death from lung related diseases like COPD, emphysema, and lung cancer.
Ultimately, this study just reaffirms the fact that smoking is deadly and no matter how young or old you might be, it’s always best to quit. The sooner you quit, the sooner you will begin reaping the benefits of better health and reduced risk for cardiovascular problems.