Middle East Smokers: Think About Your Heart

Pipe use and smoking is increasing in the Middle East, but new research shows this habit is bad for your heart.

While westerners are already too aware of the dangers of smoking, the Middle East culture has a long way to go in education and smoking laws. In some countries, such as Iraq, more and more youths are becoming addicted to the very dangerous hookah pipe. Heavy smoking is grounds for getting a divorce according to some muftis; and some new research is in that may make you butt out for good: a new Tel Aviv University study proves that smoking cessation significantly increases heart health later in life.

The researchers found that quitting smoking after a heart attack has about the same positive effect as other major interventions such as lipid-lowering agents like statins or more invasive procedures and the study results were reported in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

“It’s really the most broad and eye-opening study of its kind,” says Dr. Yariv Gerber of from the Sackler School of Medicine at Tel Aviv University. “Smoking really decreases your life expectancy after a heart attack. Those who have never smoked have a 43% lower risk of succumbing after a heart attack, compared to the persistent smoker.”

Even those with a history of smoking can see their risk sharply decline once they give up the habit. “We found that people who quit smoking after their first heart attack had a 37% lower risk of dying from another, compared to those who continued to smoke,” Dr. Gerber can conclude.

In the study, the researchers looked at data on more than 1,500 patients, 65 years old or less, who were discharged from hospitals in 1992 and 1993 in central Israel, all after their first acute myocardial infarction. At the time of their first heart attack, 27% of the men in the study had never smoked, some 20% reported being former smokers, while more than half admitted to being current smokers.

Those who quit smoking before the first heart attack had a 50% lower mortality rate, while those who quit after their heart attack lowered that rate by a whopping 37% compared with those who continued to smoke.

By cutting their habit by only five cigarettes a day, a smoker might see the likelihood of dying within the next 13 years decrease by 18%. The researchers caution, however, that continuing to smoke still carries the risks of cancer and lung disease, and doctors should urge that their patients quit entirely.

“The burden of heart disease on our healthcare system is enormous. The overall impact of smoking on heart attacks and cardiac mortality is therefore much more significant than its impact on lung cancer,” says Dr. Gerber. “The effect of smoking on heart health is actually a much bigger public health threat, and most people are not aware of this.


Image via divyansh

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