It’s never too late to quit smoking. That’s the latest word from German researchers who found even seniors in their 70s can greatly lower their risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke by quitting tobacco.
The study, published by the German Cancer Research Center in the European Journal of Epidemiology, found each cigarette smoked increases the risk of cardiovascular disease and can cause prematurely aging that stresses the heart.
"We were able to show that the risk of smokers for cardiovascular diseases is more than twice that of non-smokers. However, former smokers are affected at almost the same low rate as people of the same age who never smoked," said Hermann Brenner, who helped conduct the study of more than 8,800 Germans between 50 and 74 years of age. "Moreover, smokers are affected at a significantly younger age than individuals who have never smoked or have stopped smoking."
For example, Brenner said the results indicate a 60-year-old smoker has the same risk of suffering a heart attack as a 79-year-old non-smoker and the same risk of stroke as a 69-year-old non-smoker. In addition, the more cigarettes a smoker consumes per day over a period of time, the higher his or her risk.
Here’s the good news: It doesn’t take long for the health benefits of smoking cessation to become noticeable.
"Compared to individuals who continue smoking, the risk of [heart attack] and stroke is reduced by more than 40 percent already within the first five years after the last cigarette," said co-researcher Carolin Gellert.
As a result, the researchers suggested that smoking cessation programs, which tend to target younger people, should be expanded to reach out to older people as well.
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