The Risk Of Heart Disease Lingers 15 Years After Quitting Smoking

We all know smoking is bad for us. It can cause cancer, along with serious damage to our heart and lungs - and while quitting is the first best thing you can do, scientists are now saying it can take up to 15 years to fully recover from the damage done.

A study completed by researchers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center found it could take well over the previously-estimated five years for hearts to fully recover from smoking, as it could take well over a decade to get rid of the life-threatening damage done by years of being hammered by nicotine, tobacco and other chemicals in cigarettes.

The researchers analysed data from 8,700 people, gathered over 50 years, and found it took up to 16 years after going cold turkey - not just cutting down - for the risk of heart attack and other forms of cardiovascular disease to go down to a normal level.

Over the years it's been document that blood vessels are the first to recover from the effects of smoking - only 20 minutes after a person stops smoking do heart rate and blood pressure drop back down to a normal level.

Risk of heart disease lingers 15 years after quitting smoking Credit: PA
Risk of heart disease lingers 15 years after quitting smoking Credit: PA

After 12 hours carbon monoxide levels in the blood begin to stabilise and go to an undetectable level, and after a week heart attack risk drops because blood vessels aren't being exposed to the dangers of smoking.

However, heart disease risk lingers for much longer.

The lead author of the study, Meredith Duncan, told the Daily Mail: "For people who have smoked heavily over many years, there could be changes in the heart and lungs that don't completely normalise.

"What's key to remember is that the actual risk of heart attack and other forms of cardiovascular disease goes down, and this is a main finding of our current study."

The effects of smoking on the lungs is still an area that's a bit of a minefield for scientists to navigate, meaning Duncan hopes to explore this more in the next stages of research.

Duncan continued: "We would like to revisit that topic, this time incorporating genetic data into our models to assess the interaction of genes and smoking habits on lung cancer risk."

Credit: PA
Credit: PA

Since papers were first published in the 90s about the effects of smoking, its popularity has decreased. However, governments around the world are stepping up their efforts to get people to quit smoking - one of the biggest being raising the price of cigarettes.

According to the latest UK Autumn budget, a pack of 20 cigarettes is going to become 33p more expensive. The news is worse if you roll your own, as they're going to be 48p more expensive.

The government has also said it's looking at raising a packet of cigarettes to £20 by 2020.

So with the new research - and price hikes - it looks like quitting smoking might not just be hugely beneficial to your health, but to your bank balance too.

Featured Image Credit: PA

Rachael Grealish

Rachael is a NCTJ qualified journalist from West Cumbria, with a passion for news, features and journalism. Outside of work Rachael loves plenty of coffee, running and reading.

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