(RxWiki News) For years, healthcare professionals have known that quitting smoking can improve heart health. It may be that the heart can heal even faster than previously thought.
A recent study looked at the heart health of a group of seniors comprised of never smokers, former light smokers and former heavy smokers.
The results of this study showed that it took less than 15 years for former light smokers to have a similar risk of heart disease as people who never smoked.
"Don’t wait; quit smoking today."
Ali Ahmed, MD, MPH, of the School of Medicine at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, led a team of researchers to update previous estimates on how quitting smoking can lower the risk of heart disease.
Statements by the US Surgeon General have suggested that the risk of heart disease for former smokers may be reduced to that of people who never smoked after 15 years of no longer smoking.
Previous research has proposed that heavy smokers may still have a risk of heart failure after 15 years of smoking.
For this study, 3,410 adults ages 65 and older who did not have heart disease at the start of the study were followed for 13 years.
Overall, 2,557 had never been smokers, and 853 had quit smoking less than 15 years ago (median of 8 years). A total of 534 of the participants were classified as heavy smokers.
The researchers defined “heavy” smoking as 32 or more pack years.
Pack years are calculated by multiplying the number of years a person smoked by the number of packs that person smoked per day. For example, if a person smoked two packs per day for 10 years, he or she would have 20 pack years. Or, if a person smoked one pack per day for 20 years, he or she also would have 20 pack years.
Among never smokers, 20 percent had heart failure, 39 percent died from all causes, 17 percent died from heart disease and 22 percent died from a non-heart related death.
Of the light smokers, 18 percent had heart failure, 43 percent died from all causes, 14 percent died from heart disease and 29 percent died from a non-heart related death.
Among heavy smokers, 21 percent experienced heart failure, 55 percent died from all causes, 22 percent died from heart disease, and 33 percent died from a non-heart related death.
The authors of this study concluded that the rates of heart failure and death from heart disease were not higher among light smokers who had quit smoking less than 15 years ago than the rates among never smokers.
These authors also noted that the risk of death from all causes and non-heart disease-related deaths were higher in former light smokers than they were in never smokers.
All four categories of heart failure, all cause death, heart disease-related deaths and non-heart disease-related deaths were higher in former heavy smokers.
“It’s good news. Now there’s a chance for even less of a waiting period to get a cleaner bill of cardiovascular health. Smoking is the most preventable cause of early death in America — if you smoke, quit and quit early!” Dr. Ahmed said in a press statement.
This study was presented at the scientific meeting of the American Heart Association from November 16-20, 2013 in Dallas, Texas. This research has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal.
No funding information was declared. Co-author G.C. Fonarow reported potential conflicts of interest with Medtronic, Johnson & Johnson, Gambro and other public and private research foundations.