Smoking is a risk factor for heart disease. That we know. But the how cigarette smoking actually affects survival and longevity of those who already have heart disease hasn’t been fully explored. This recent study by researchers at Tel Aviv University tells us some encouraging news:
Smoking cessation after a heart attack is just as effective as medications in preventing a second one.
Taking a first heart attack as a serious warning, quitting smoking brings significant health benefits to heart attack patients, benefits which may be comparable to those of statins or even more invasive procedures. The researchers looked at 1500 heart attack patients with the following smoking habits:
- More than 50% are smokers.
- 20% are former smokers.
- 27% are lifetime non-smokers.
After the heart attack, 35% of smokers were able to quit, with very strong benefits: People who quit after their heart attack lowered that rate by 37% compared with those who continued to smoke. People who quit before the first heart attack had a 50% lower mortality rate.
According to Dr. Yariv Gerber of TAU’s Sackler School of Medicine:
“It’s really the most broad and eye-opening study of its kind. Smoking really decreases your life expectancy after a heart attack. Those who have never smoked have a 43% lower risk of succumbing after a heart attack, compared to the persistent smoker…We found that people who quit smoking after their first heart attack had a 37% lower risk of dying from another, compared to those who continued to smoke.”
Smoking reduction after heart attack can have significant benefits.
OK, so quitting smoking is not an easy thing to do for some people. Ask US President Barack Obama. So if cessation is not possible, one can try reduction of the number of cigarettes smoked per day. The TAU study showed that even a reduction is better than going on as before. By reducing smoking after heart attack, the likelihood of dying from another heart attack within the next 13 years is also reduced by 18%.
Dr. Gerber continues
“The novel aspect in our study is that it is the first to show the benefit of a reduction in smoking. This is information that some smokers could live with ― literally. We would like people to consider cutting down as an initial step before complete cessation, especially those who find it impossible to quit right away.”
However, smoking, no matter how little, can cause other diseases such as cancer. Thus, though smoking reduction translates to reduction in mortality risk due to a cardiac event, it may still have an effect on overall mortality.