Saturday, February 23, 2013

Smoking Cessation in Old Age: Less Heart Attacks and Strokes Within Only Five Years


Smokers increase their risk of myocardial infarction (heart attack) and stroke with every cigarette they smoke.

Conversely, those who quit smoking even at an advanced age will have a considerable decrease in their risk after a very short time.

Professor Hermann Brenner and colleagues at the German Cancer Research Center (Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum, DKFZ) analyzed the data of 8.807 individuals aged between 50 and 74 years using data of Saarland citizens.

In their evaluation, the scientists also took account of the effects of other factors such as age, gender, alcohol consumption, education and physical exercise as well as blood pressure, diabetes, cholesterol levels, body height and weight.

“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,” says Brenner. “Moreover, smokers are affected at a significantly younger age than individuals who have never smoked or have stopped smoking.”

For example, a 60-year-old smoker has the same risk of myocardial infarction as a 79-year-old non-smoker and the same risk of stroke as a 69-year-old non-smoker. Dose and duration of tobacco consumption also have an impact on disease risk. The more cigarettes a smoker consumes per day over a prolonged period of time, the higher his or her risk raises.

Positive Effect of Smoking Cessation Noticeable within a short period of time.

“Compared to individuals who continue smoking, the risk of myocardial infarction and stroke is reduced by more than 40 percent already within the first five years after the last cigarette,” says Carolin Gellert, first author of the study.

The results suggest that smoking cessation programs, which have concentrated on younger participants up to now, should be expanded to reach out to older people as well.


The above story is based on the February 20, 2013 news release by Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres.

The research by these scientists has been e-published ahead of print in European Journal of Epidemiology:
Gellert C, Schöttker B, Müller H, Holleczek B, Brenner H. Impact of smoking and quitting on cardiovascular outcomes and risk advancement periods among older.  adults. Eur J Epidemiol. 2013 DOI: 10.1007/s10654-013-9776-0 

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