EVEN smokers over the age of 60 can rapidly reduce their risk of dying from heart disease if they kick the habit, research has found.
Generally smokers increase their risk of heart attack and stroke with every cigarette they smoke, scientists from the German Cancer Research Centre said.
Many heart attacks and strokes could be prevented this wayProfessor Hermann Brenner
Twice as many smokers die from cardiovascular disease than life-long non-smokers, but this drops for those who have quit – with the risk for former smokers only 1.3 times that of people who have never smoked in their lives.
The research also found that while smokers who die from heart disease are, on average, five-and-a-half years younger than non-smokers who die from it, the age for former smokers drops to just two years younger than lifelong non-smokers.
In the first five years after smoking the last cigarette, the risks decrease significantly, while the more time that has passed since a former smoker has quit, the more considerable the decrease in their risk of dying from heart attack or stroke, said researchers.
The research, described as the most comprehensive study ever on the impact of smoking on cardiovascular disease in older people, saw 25 studies involving more than half a million people aged 60-plus analysed.
Professor Hermann Brenner, who led the research, said: “It is never too late to stop smoking.
“Even people in the highest age group still gain considerable health benefits from it. Many heart attacks and strokes, with all of their serious consequences, could be prevented this way.”
Christopher Allen, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said: “The evidence that smoking causes significant harm to your heart is overwhelming. This study further emphasises just how important it is that we do everything in our power to quit.
“Giving up can potentially add years to your life and, as this research suggests, the benefits can be felt at any age so it’s never too late to kick the habit.”
Meanwhile, the health risks of smoking cigars are just as severe as from using cigarettes, researchers have said.
A study by the US Food and Drug Administration found the consumption of cigars in the US doubled from 6.2 billion in 2000 to more than 13.7 billion in 2011 – in contrast to a 33 per cent reduction in cigarette consumption over the same period.
Researchers suggested there is particular concern about cigar use in youth and young adults, with 16 per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds reporting they had smoked cigars at least once in the past 30 days during 2009-10. This has been attributed to the popularity of flavoured cigars, which have flooded the market in recent years.
Experts analysed a total of 22 studies, including five carried out in the UK, and concluded that the health risks “can be as high as or exceed those of cigarette smoking”.
They found those who exclusively smoked cigars and had never smoked other tobacco products had an increased risk of dying, while the risk of death from oral, oesophageal and lung cancers was found to increase with inhalation of cigar smoke.
Even in those who reported not inhaling cigar smoke, there was an increased risk of death caused by oral, laryngeal and oesophageal cancer.