If you're a smoker under 50 and you suffer a heart attack, new research suggests kicking the habit may be the best thing you can do to still be around years later.
"These results are definitive: among young people who have had a heart attack, quitting smoking is associated with a substantial benefit," said corresponding author Dr. Ron Blankstein, from the division of cardiovascular medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.
"In cardiology, we are always looking for ways to reduce the risk of cardiovascular events, be it in the form of new medications or other interventions," he said in a hospital news release.
"Our findings show the dramatic magnitude of the effect that quitting smoking can have for young adults," he added. "But, unfortunately, we also found that most young patients kept on smoking after their heart attack, reinforcing that there is a major opportunity for improvement."
In the study, the researchers analyzed data on 2,072 patients who survived a heart attack before age 50 and were treated at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital between January 2000 and April 2016.
Of those patients, 1,088 were smokers at the time of their heart attack. Data on smoking status one year after their heart attack was available for many of the patients and showed that 343 patients -- 38% -- had quit smoking and 567 -- 62% -- still smoked. Both groups were comparable in terms of age and race.
Over the next 10 years, 75 of the persistent smokers -- 13% -- died, compared to 14 -- 4% -- of those who had quit within a year of their first heart attack. Of the persistent smokers, 30 died of a heart attack or other cardiovascular event compared to six of those who quit smoking.
The study was published online recently in JAMA Network Open journal.
The "findings reinforce the critical importance of smoking cessation, especially among those who experience a heart attack at a young age," Blankstein said. "Looking at the trajectories of young patients who quit smoking versus those who don't paints a clear picture of the magnitude of risk compared to the benefit of smoking cessation."
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers a guide for quitting smoking.
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