A new study has shown that smokers have to wait 15 years after quitting for heart disease and stroke risk to be normal again.
Previous studies suggest that stroke risk from former smokers stabilizes within five years, but new studies show it takes three times as long
The report, which will be presented next week at the American Heart Association conference, is the first to examine the connection in a living cohort.
According to an analysis of 8,700 people aged 50 and over, Vanderbilt researchers found that it takes a decade for smoker hearts to get rid of the life-threatening damage caused by nicotine, tobacco and many other chemicals in cigarettes.
That's the good news. Heart and blood vessels are the fastest to recover from smoker damage, explains lead author Meredith Duncan, a Ph.D. student at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. The lungs are a completely different story.
Researchers at Vanderbilt found that smokers need well over a decade to bring the risk of heart disease back to that of a non-smoker
Heart disease is the number one killer in every country in the world, including the US and the UK, while rates are increasing (due to obesity, stress, physical inactivity, and inadequate nutrition), but the number of organs available for transplantation is not.
Fortunately, one of the biggest risk factors – cigarettes – has gone out of fashion since the release of The Cigarette Papers back in the early 1990s, showing the true damage they are doing.
As a result, the number of former smokers is increasing, but we do not know much about what health risks (or what deficiencies they are exposed to).
In recent years, some have developed into fumes – a dubious and studied practice that has been proven to cause the same chemical and addiction problems as flammable cigarettes.
However, many went to cold turkey, mostly to protect themselves and their relatives from cancer, lung disease, heart disease and stroke risk.
Duncan and her team in Nashville, Tennessee, wanted to find out how long it took for this decision to have real health effects.
"There was a lack of information about what's actually happening to people in the long term, based on estimates from data that has been strictly collected," Duncan told DailyMail.com.
To investigate, the team collected data from the Framingham Heart Study, which began in 1948 and began in 1975, including two generations of humans, nearly half of whom were smokers.
Duncan's team categorized "heavy smokers" as people who smoked a pack a day for 20 years. Heavy smokers accounted for 70 percent of heart attacks in the study.
After five years, those who had quit saw a 38 percent lower risk than those who had not quit.
However, after cessation of cold turkey (not degradation), it took 16 years for the risk of cardiovascular disease in former smokers to return to the level of non-smokers.
"For people who have smoked heavily for many years, it can cause changes in the heart and lungs that do not fully normalize," explains Duncan.
"The key to remembering is that the actual risk of heart attack and other forms of cardiovascular disease is falling, and this is a major finding of our current study."
It is indeed well documented that the blood vessels enjoy the first benefits of smoking cessation.
Only 20 minutes after a person stops smoking, their heart rate and blood pressure fall to normal levels.
Twelve hours later, carbon monoxide levels stabilize in their blood at an undetectable level.
About one week later, the risk of heart attack decreases somewhat because the heart and blood vessels are "no longer exposed to chemicals in the cigarette smoke that make the platelets" sticky "and cause unwanted blood clotting," explains Duncan.
However, the risk of heart disease remains.
"Even for heavy smokers, we can not overstate the benefits of smoking cessation," says Duncan.
The next step in Duncan's research is to take a closer look at how the risk of lung cancer changes over time.
"We have previously performed an analogous study with lung cancer as a result [cardiovascular disease]Says Duncan.
"We would like to revisit this topic and this time integrate genetic data into our models to assess the interaction of genes and smoking habits with respect to lung cancer risk."