Quit Smoking and Rapidly Drop Risk of Heart Disease

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Risk of heart disease and heart attack appears to drop quickly among smokers who kick the habit, according to new research.

The Study

The heart health of 1,500 people participating in a smoking cessation clinical trial was evaluated by doctors in order to determine the effect of quitting smoking on cardiovascular health. Doctors measured the participants' flow-mediated dilation (FMD), a measurement of the health of the upper arm's brachial artery which is used to predict risk for heart and blood vessel disease.

The participants who successfully quit smoking for 1 year saw as much as a 1% improvement in FMD; although it may not sound like much, a 1% change means about a 14% lower rate of health incidents caused by cardiovascular disease. Quitting smoking decreased risk of heart disease and heart attack even though it was associated with weight gain, a common side effect of quitting smoking.

What Does This Mean?

Smoking is known to raise your risk of heart trouble--in fact, in the U.S. cardiovascular disease causes about 1/3 of premature deaths related to smoking. One question many people have is whether the damage done by smoking can be reversed, and how quickly. Quitting smoking is a difficult process, and it's natural to want to be sure it will result in a real health benefit. This study shows that permanently quitting smoking really does make a person less likely to have a heart attack or suffer from heart disease--something that might help motivate you to quit for good.

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