It used to be thought that it took about 15 years after you quit smoking to lower the related risks to your heart. But new research presented at the American Heart Association's annual meeting shows you may be able to lower your risk of heart attack, stroke, and heart failure to that of people who never smoked far sooner after you quit …
After analyzing more than 800 former smokers aged 65 and older, it was found that light-to-moderate smokers who quit reduced their heart risks in just eight years – or less.
The definition of a light-to-moderate smoker was less than 32 ‘pack years’ of cigarettes (this is calculated by multiplying the number of cigarettes smoked per day by the number of years you were a smoker). For example, this would equate to 3.2 packs a day for 10 years or less than one pack a day for 30 years, which means that even if you were a steady smoker, the benefits of quitting are significant.
Specifically, light-to-moderate smokers who quit in the more recent timeframe had a 14 percent risk of dying from heart disease, heart attack or stroke, compared to a 22 percent chance for former heavy smokers and a 17 percent chance for those who had never smoked.
The study’s lead author, Dr. Ali Ahmed, noted:
"Even though they quit only eight years ago, because they smoked less they were able to become like never-smokers in half the time … If you smoke, quit and quit early,”
While the former smokers were able to seemingly reverse much of the smoking-related damage to their hearts, their lungs did not fare so well. Even 15 years after quitting, the former light-to-moderate smokers still had a higher risk of dying from lung cancer, emphysema or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
What Else Happens When You Quit Smoking?
The heart benefits alone should provide ample motivation to quit, but the American Cancer Society has also compiled additional benefits you will gain starting just minutes after you quit:
Need Help Trying to Quit? Try This App
You can find some of the best ways to kick the habit here, but one tool to try right now is QuitSTART, an app from the National Cancer Institute designed to help you quit smoking. QuitSTART helps you track your cravings and moods, monitor your progress toward achieving smoke-free milestones, identify your smoking triggers, and upload personalized reminders to use during challenging times to help you successfully become and stay smoke-free.