Quitting smoking even in later life can help stop your life being cut short by cardiovascular disease (CVD), according to new research.
Researchers from the German Cancer Research Centre, analysed data from 25 different studies involving over half a million people aged 60 and older to see how smoking impacted their risk of dying prematurely from CVD.
The results showed smokers were twice as likely to die from CVD than people who have never smoked, and on average died more than five years sooner than non-smokers. Their risk increased the more cigarettes they smoked.
However researchers found that people who quit, even after smoking past 60, saw their risk of developing cardiovascular disease decreased notably within the first five years of giving up. Their risk continued to decrease over time the longer they remained smoke-free.
Christopher Allen, Senior Cardiac Nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said: “The evidence that smoking causes significant harm to your heart is overwhelming. This study further emphasises just how important it is that we do everything in our power to quit.
“Giving up can potentially add years to your life and, as this research suggests, the benefits can be felt at any age so it’s never too late to kick the habit.
“If you’d like to quit smoking, speak to your GP or practice nurse who can offer you guidance and support in how to give up for good.”
There are other health benefits associated with giving up smoking.
Giving up tobacco stops teeth becoming stained, and you’ll have fresher breath. Ex-smokers are less likely than smokers to get gum disease and lose their teeth prematurely.
People breathe more easily and cough less when they give up smoking because their lung capacity improves by up to 10% within nine months. In your 20s and 30s, the effect of smoking on your lung capacity may not be noticeable until you go for a run, but lung capacity naturally diminishes with age. In later years, having maximum lung capacity can mean the difference between having an active, healthy old age and wheezing when going for a walk or climbing the stairs.
Feel less stressed
Scientific studies show that people’s stress levels are lower after they stop smoking. Nicotine addiction makes smokers stressed from the ‘withdrawal’ between cigarettes. The pleasant feeling of satisfying that craving is only temporary and is not a real cure for stress. Also, the improved levels of oxygen in the body mean that ex-smokers can concentrate better and have increased mental wellbeing.
Improve smell and taste
Kicking the smoking habit gives your senses of smell and taste a boost. The body is recovering from being dulled by the hundreds of toxic chemicals found in cigarettes.
Stop smoking for more energy
Within two to 12 weeks of stopping smoking, your circulation improves. This makes all physical activity, including walking and running, much easier.
Quitting also boosts your immune system, making it easier to fight off cold and flu viruses. The increase in oxygen in the body makes ex-smokers less tired and less likely to have headaches.
Protect your loved ones
By stopping smoking you’ll be protecting the health of your non-smoking friends and family.
Passive smoking increases a non-smoker’s risk of lung cancer, heart disease and stroke. Second-hand smoke doubles the risk of children getting chest illnesses, including pneumonia, croup (swollen airways in the lungs) and bronchitis, plus more ear infections, wheezing and asthma. They also have three times the risk of getting lung cancer in later life compared with children who live with non-smokers.