Smoking Cessation Adds 5 Healthy Years to Life After Heart Attack
Quit smoking after a heart attack or bypass surgery, or go on 3 different medications? You may see the same longevity benefits if you just quit, scientists say.
Smokers who give up cigarettes after a heart attack, bypass surgery, or procedures to unclog blocked arteries may add almost five healthy years to their lives, a new study suggests.
“The benefits of smoking cessation are even greater than we realized,” said Tinka van Trier, MD, PhD, an author of the study and a cardiologist at Amsterdam University Medical Centre in the Netherlands.
For the study, researchers examined data on 989 current smokers aged 45 and older who had all had a heart attack, bypass surgery, or a procedure to implant a stent — a tiny wire mesh cage that helps keep blood flowing through arteries — at least six months earlier.
These patients were treated with three common medications to prevent events like heart attacks and strokes in people with a history of heart disease: statins to lower cholesterol; blood thinners, and drugs to lower their blood pressure.
Researchers used a mathematical model built on a wide range of risk factors for heart disease to calculate how many healthy years — without a heart attack or stroke — these patients might add to their lives if they managed to stop smoking. In addition, they calculated how many additional healthy years of life patients might gain from taking three extra medicines to prevent cardiovascular disease: colchicine, an anti-inflammatory therapy, and two medicines to lower “bad” LDL cholesterol.
The conclusion: Smoking cessation would help these patients live another 4.81 years. They would live 4.83 years if they kept smoking and took all three extra medicines.
“This indicates that smoking cessation is a very important step toward adding healthy years to one’s lifetime,” Dr. Van Trier said in a statement.
And the calculations didn’t even factor in many other benefits of smoking cessation, like preventing respiratory illness or cancer, Van Trier added.
The study results were presented at ESC Preventive Cardiology 2022, an online scientific meeting of the European Society of Cardiology. Note that independent scientists did not review the validity of the findings, which typically happens when studies are published in medical journals.
Even though the many health benefits of smoking cessation are well known, the researchers believe that risk calculators doctors typically use to advise patients on the advantages of quitting may underestimate the upside of doing this. That’s because there are so many effective medications for attacking other risk factors of heart disease — like high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol, researchers argue.
“Due to the increasing number of beneficial pharmacological interventions available, the substantial health benefit of smoking cessation may be overlooked,” researchers wrote in the materials they presented at the medical meeting.
Authored by Lisa Rapaport