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Quitting smoking can lower risk of cardiovascular disease within 5 years

According to a new study from researchers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, heavy smokers with at least a 20-packs-per-year history can reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) by 39% within five years of quitting smoking. 

After 10 years (or sometimes up to 25 years) after quitting, their risk for CVD will level out with those who have never smoked. Currently, cigarette smoking is responsible for 20% of CVD deaths in the U.S.

These findings are published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

“Previous studies have shown the association between quitting and reduced CVD risk,” said lead author, Meredith Duncan, MA, who led the analyses for the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine at VUMC. “But the current Atherosclerotic CVD Risk Calculator, which is routinely used in clinical practice, considers former smokers’ risk to be similar to that of never smokers after five years of cessation, which is not consistent with these findings.”

To come to their conclusion, researchers used data from the Framingham Heart Study, which is a longitudinal study of both men and women from Framingham, Massachusetts. The study initially started in 1948, and now includes the original participants’ children and grandchildren.

This recent study looked at prospective data from 8,770 participants, collected between 1954 and 2014. 3,805 participants were from the original Framingham study, and the other 4,965 are offspring. 

“The Framingham Heart Study provides particularly robust data on lifetime smoking history,” Duncan said. “Our team leveraged this unique opportunity to document what happens to CVD risk after quitting smoking relative to people who continued to smoke and to those who never smoked.”

“The cardiovascular system begins to heal relatively quickly after quitting smoking, even for people who have smoked heavily over decades,” said senior author Hilary Tindle, MD, MPH, medical director of the VUMC Tobacco Treatment Service and founding director of the Vanderbilt Center for Tobacco Addiction and Lifestyle (ViTAL) said. “Full recovery could take years, so now is a great time to quit smoking and take other steps toward heart health.”

By Olivia Harvey, Staff Writer

Image Credit: Shutterstock/Mita Stock Images

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