A fascinating new study reveals smokers who quit will be able to see significant improvements in their health within five years. Researchers of the new study say it could even reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
For the study, the team examined the data of 8,770 people, out of which 2,371smoked 20 or more “pack years.” When researchers conducted a follow-up after 26 years, they discovered 2,435 of the participants suffered from various cardiovascular issues including heart attack and stroke. Shortness of breath, leg pain, and chest pain are some of the warning signs of cardiovascular issues.
“Smoking is a well-known risk factor for lung problems,” Dr Srilakshmi Vallabhaneni, a senior cardiology fellow at St. Luke’s University Health Network in Bethlehem, told a news portal. Adding, “The heart hasn’t been highlighted as much. It was a small sample size, but large enough to answer the question about cardiovascular risks five years after quitting smoking.”
Dr Robert Greenfield, a double board-certified cardiologist and lipidologist, says any amount of smoking can become a problem. “Every time you put a cigarette in your mouth, whether you inhale or not, you’re sucking in carbon monoxide,” Greenfield told a news portal. Adding,“It gets into the bloodstream, where it displaces oxygen in red blood cells. Carbon monoxide damages the lining of arteries and affects cholesterol circulation, creating more plaque."
Greenfield further explained: “The sooner you can stop smoking, the better. But it’s not as simple as stopping and in five years you’re OK. The cardiology community should be looking at ex-smokers differently and be more diligent in talking to patients."
Learning about the harmful effects of smoking may cause many to want to quit the habit. While it may be hard to quit it cold turkey, try starting with more manageable goals. “If you smoke 10 cigarettes a day, maybe cut down to eight, then six. Cutting down a little every few weeks seems to work really well. And patients can relapse over time, so we need to reinforce that when they see their primary care physician or cardiologist if they have a heart problem,” Vallabhaneni told a news portal. Adding, “Also stay active and exercise. We recommend 30 minutes a day, five days a week, even if it’s just walking. Do what you like to do, but stay active.”
The study's findings highlight the need to make a huge lifestyle change when we make bad and unhealthy choices for our health. “Smoking changes the body,” Greenfield told a news portal. Adding “We can paint a picture of what could happen. I wish I could take young smokers into the intensive care unit at the hospital to show them people on ventilators. We’ve done a good job with some of the scary advertising for not smoking.”
Greenfield believes the best way to improve our health is by making changes in our lifestyle.“Lifestyle is the best medicine we can prescribe. We try to prevent risk factors rather than treat once there’s a problem. We have to sit down with young people and have a conversation. It’s the right thing to do,” Greenfield told a news portal.
The study's findings were originally published in the journal JAMA.
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