You probably already know that smoking is a dangerous habit, and also a risk factor for high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. If you also have diabetes, smoking is even riskier. It should be no surprise, then, that quitting smoking is one of the best ways you can improve your health.
How soon after you quit smoking do you start to see benefits?
You may start to look and feel better after a few months. You might notice that you cough less, that it is easier to breathe, and that you have more energy. Even though you start to feel better quickly, it wasn’t always clear to healthcare providers how long it takes to lower your heart disease risk to the same level as someone who never smoked.
New research on smoking and heart disease risk
In the past, it was thought that a person had to have stopped smoking for 15 years or more to get to the same risk level as a non-smoker. But a new study presented at a meeting of the American Heart Association suggests that the benefits of quitting might be realized much sooner!
The study followed 853 people over the age of 65 who had smoked for less than 32 “pack-years.” A pack-year is the number of packs of cigarettes smoked per day multiplied by the total number of years smoked. For example, if you smoked 2 packs a day for 10 years, this would be 20 pack-years.
The study results showed that:
- those who had smoked less than 32 pack-years and had quit smoking for 15 or fewer years reduced their risk of dying from strokes, heart attacks, and heart failure to the same level as people who had never smoked.
- many of the study members were able to get this same risk in as little as 8 years!
- smokers still had a greater risk of dying from causes not related to heart health, such as emphysema, cancer, and other lung diseases.
- smokers who had more than 32 pack-years did not see the same benefit.
The Take-Home Message
It’s no secret that smoking is bad for you in a number of ways, and that quitting smoking is the best way to lower your risk of many health problems. If you think you are ready to quit, talk to your healthcare provider about the many ways you may be able to kick the habit and improve your health!