Quitting Smoking Associated with Lower Risk of Cardiovascular Disease
You probably already know smoking is not good for your health. Cigarette smoking is the cause of more than 480,000 deaths in the United States annually, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).1
Smoking negatively impacts every organ in the body. It increases the risk of certain types of cancer, pulmonary disease, diabetes, reproductive problems, and arthritis. It is a major cause of heart disease and can quadruple your risk of a heart attack or stroke.2
If you are a smoker, quitting can help reduce or even reverse some of these risk factors. But, little is known about how long it takes to do so. A new 2019 study published in the Journal of the American Association looked at how long it would take for the risk of heart disease to decrease after subjects quit smoking.3
Although it was understood that smoking cessation could reduce the risk of heart disease, it has been unclear how much time it took for the risk to go down. The lack of understanding about timing and heart disease has led to an underestimation of risk for former smokers. This study sought to understand how long it takes for the risk of heart disease to decrease.
The study evaluated data from the Framingham Heart Study to determine the connection between years since smoking cessation and heart disease. The 8,770 subjects were grouped based on time of smoking cessation and various cardiovascular risk factors such as blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, and body mass index.
Of the participants in the study, only 40% had never smoked. Of the remaining 60% who had smoked at some point, 38.6% had quit while 51.4% continued to smoke until they developed heart disease or other related health problems. The abstinence period from smoking ranged from 0 to 68 years.
The study found that 71% of the cardiovascular events occurred in the heaviest smokers. The good news is that the risk of heart disease declined quickly upon quitting. For heavy smokers, heart disease risk was significantly lower within 5 years of quitting. But, remained elevated for at least 10 to 15 years and possibly up to 25 years, when compared to those that never smoked.
The take home message from this study is that quitting can help decrease your risk of heart disease rapidly, but it may take longer than anticipated for your risk to normalize. This is why quitting as soon as possible is critical to your long-term health.
Tips to Quit Smoking
If you are a current smoker, the sooner you can quit, the faster your risk of heart disease and other health conditions will decrease. If you are ready to quit smoking, start by speaking to your doctor to discuss the best methods for you. Talk to your family and friends as well, as they can help you manage cravings and support you during your journey.
The CDC offers a texting program to help people quit smoking. It is a free program where you receive 3-5 text messages a day for 6 to 8 weeks to give you motivation to quit. They have free phone support to those who want to quit, as well as multiple online resources.
The important thing to remember is that it is never too late to quit smoking. But, the sooner you can do it, the better your health and heart will be.
- CDCTobaccoFree. Health Effects of Cigarette Smoking. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- Reducing the Health Consequences of Smoking: 25 Years of Progress: A Report of the Surgeon General: 1989 Executive Summary.
- JAMA. 2019;322(7):642-650.
- Tags: Heart Health
- Blog Contributor