Smoker alert: Information you can live with

Feb 01, 2010

Smoking affects your cardiac health both before and after a major event like a heart attack. But how much? And does cutting back instead of quitting have a positive effect as well?

There are definitive answers in a new study from Tel Aviv University, the largest and most comprehensive of its kind.

The research found that quitting after a has about the same positive effect as other major interventions such as lipid-lowering agents like statins or more invasive procedures. Study results were reported in the .

"It's really the most broad and eye-opening study of its kind," says Dr. Yariv Gerber of TAU's Sackler School of Medicine. "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."

But even those with a history of smoking can see their risk sharply decline once they give up the habit. "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," Dr. Gerber says.

Largest study of its kind

In the study, the researchers looked at data collected by TAU senior cardiologist Prof. Yaacov Drory. The data covered more than 1,500 patients, 65 years old or less, who were discharged from hospitals in 1992 and 1993 in central Israel, all after their first acute . At the time of their first heart attack, 27% of the men in the study had never smoked, some 20% reported being former smokers, while more than half admitted to being current smokers.

After leaving the hospital, the smokers attempted to quit. Among this group, 35% were able to abstain over the next decade or so. Analyzing data spanning more than 13 years, the researchers concluded that the greatest risk of death occurred in those people who continued to smoke, even when socioeconomic measures (education, employment and income), cardiovascular risk factors (hypertension, obesity and exercise) and medical treatment were taken into consideration.

Those who quit smoking before the first heart attack had a 50% lower mortality rate, while those who quit after their heart attack lowered that rate by a whopping 37% compared with those who continued to smoke.

"Information to live with ― literally"

In their study, researchers also quantified the effects of a reduction, as opposed to complete cessation, in smoking. By cutting their habit by only five cigarettes a day, a smoker might see the likelihood of dying within the next 13 years decrease by 18%. The researchers caution, however, that continuing to smoke still carries the risks of cancer and lung disease, and doctors should urge that their patients quit entirely.

"The burden of heart disease on our healthcare system is enormous. The overall impact of smoking on heart attacks and cardiac mortality is therefore much more significant than its impact on lung cancer," says Dr. Gerber. "The effect of smoking on heart health is actually a much bigger public health threat, and most people are not aware of this.

"The novel aspect in our study is that it is the first to show the benefit of a reduction in smoking," adds Dr. Gerber. "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."

Explore further: Patient-centered medical homes reduce costs

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Heart attack risk from smoking due to genetics

Dec 19, 2007

Heart attacks among cigarette smokers may have less to do with tobacco than genetics. A common defect in a gene controlling cholesterol metabolism boosts smokers’ risk of an early heart attack, according to a new study ...

Not ready to quit? Try cutting back

Dec 07, 2006

In a review article in the December Nicotine and Tobacco Research, researchers at the University of Vermont have found an unexpected, effective alternative to motivate smokers to quit smoking – cutting back. According to ...

Recommended for you

Patient-centered medical homes reduce costs

14 minutes ago

The patient-centered medical home (PCMH), introduced in 2007, is a model of health care that emphasizes personal relationships, team delivery of care, coordination across specialties and care settings, quality ...

New mums still excessively sleepy after four months

1 hour ago

(Medical Xpress)—New mums are being urged to be cautious about returning to work too quickly, after a QUT study found one in two were still excessively sleepy four months after giving birth.

It's time to address the health of men around the world

1 hour ago

All over the world, men die younger than women and do worse on a host of health indicators, yet policy makers rarely focus on this "men's health gap" or adopt programs aimed at addressing it, according to an international ...

User comments : 0