The risk of heart attack and stroke is significantly reduced within five years of quitting smoking, according to new research.
The study, conducted at the German Cancer Research Centre in Heidelberg, suggest that quitting smoking is beneficial no matter what your age, because the benefits develop so quickly.
The researchers analysed the data of more than half a million people across Europe and the US, and found that smokers who die from heart disease are on average five and a half years younger than non-smokers who die from heart disease.
“To our knowledge, the present work is currently the largest and most comprehensive study on the association of smoking with cardiovascular disease and mortality in older adults,” said Dr Ute Mons, of the German Cancer Research Centre.
“Our results show that in people aged 60 years and older, smoking strongly contributes to acute coronary events, stroke, and cardiovascular deaths.”
People with diabetes are at a much greater risk of heart disease than people without diabetes, with some studies suggesting that as many as 80 per cent of people with diabetes will die from a heart-related health problem. Heart disease is one of the most common diabetic complications. Over time, prolonged exposure to high blood glucose levels can damage the arteries, restricting blood flow.
Because of their already heightened risk of developing heart disease, people with diabetes are strongly urged not to smoke. But smoking with diabetes also carries an independent risk, rather than just increasing the likelihood of heart disease. Smoking significantly heightens the risk of all diabetic complications, which include retinopathy (eyesight damage), neuropathy (nerve damage, which can lead to amputation) and Alzheimers disease.
Smoking more than doubles the risk of some complications, such as kidney disease and erectile dysfunction.
“Smokers had two-fold hazards of cardiovascular mortality compared with never smokers, which, in terms of risk advancement periods, advanced the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease by 5.5 years,” said Dr. Mons.
“Among smokers, the excess risk increased with higher levels of cigarette consumption. The increased excess risk among former smokers declined with time after smoking cessation in dose-response manner.
“To conclude, our results corroborate and expand existing evidence that smoking is a strong independent risk factor of cardiovascular events and mortality even at older age, advancing cardiovascular mortality by more than five years.”

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