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Heart failure risk falls to normal 15 years after most smokers quit


 A VA study found that for most former smokers who quit at least 15 years ago, the risk of heart failure and death are the same as those of someone who never smoked.
A VA study found that for most former smokers who quit at least 15 years ago, the risk of heart failure and death are the same as those of someone who never smoked. (Photo by Senior Airman Anthony Sanchelli/USAF)

A VA study found that for most former smokers who quit at least 15 years ago, the risk of heart failure and death are the same as those of someone who never smoked. (Photo by Senior Airman Anthony Sanchelli/USAF)

Reuters News Service and other outlets reported on a VA study of former smokers that found that for most former smokers who quit at least 15 years ago, the risk of heart failure and death are the same as those of someone who never smoked.

However, researchers from the Washington, D.C., VA Medical Center reported that heavy smokers—those who smoked at least a pack a day for 32 years or more—still have an elevated risk of developing heart disease and dying.

The study, published on June 2, 2015, in the journal Circulation: Heart Failure, looked at adults over age 65, including 2556 people who had never smoked, 629 current smokers, and 1,297 former smokers who had quit at least 15 years earlier. Of those who had quit, 312 had been heavy smokers.

After 13 years of follow-up, about 21 percent of those who had never smoked and 21 percent of former smokers experienced heart failure. However, about 30 percent of those who were heavy smokers suffered heart failure. Current smokers, after researchers adjusted for factors like age, sex, education, and other health conditions, were about 50 percent more likely than those who had never smoked or former smokers to have heart failure.

"While all individuals who quit smoking will benefit from a decreased chance of death, to achieve the full complements of health benefits of smoking cessation of one who has never smoked, smokers need to smoke less and quit early, and for those who are not smokers—never start smoking," Dr. Ali Ahmed, lead researcher for the study, told Reuters.


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