Why It’s Never Too Late to Quit Smoking

Most people associate cigarette smoking with breathing problems and lung cancer. But smoking also is strongly linked to cardiovascular disease – and the habit can drastically shorten your life.

Smoking is a major cause of atherosclerosis— a buildup of cholesterol, fatty cells and inflammatory deposits called plaque on the inner walls of the arteries.

Atherosclerosis can restrict blood flow to the heart, legs, brain, kidneys and other organs, which leads to peripheral artery disease (PAD) or coronary artery disease (CAD).

The decrease in supply of oxygen-rich blood to the heart or brain also can lead to heart attack or stroke. People who smoke a pack of cigarettes a day have more than twice the risk of heart attack than nonsmokers.

Smoking increases the risk of death from lung cancer, heart attack and stroke by 200 percent.

Live longer

One study examined the hazards of smoking and benefits of quitting. It found that smokers lose at least one decade of life expectancy compared with people who have never smoked.

But if you’re a smoker and think it’s too late to save your health, reconsider. The study also found that people who quit smoking by age 40 reduce their risk of smoking-related death by an astounding 90 percent.

So if you are thinking of quitting, know that you can still reap health benefits — even if you’ve smoked for years.

Compelling evidence

The benefit of a lower risk of smoking-related death continues into your late 50s, although the later you quit smoking, the less dramatic the reduction, says vascular surgeon Lee Kirksey, MD.

“We have always counseled patients to quit smoking to avoid these negative consequences,” Dr. Kirksey says. “We have very compelling evidence that patients who make the prudent decision can effectively add years to their life expectancy.”

Smoking cessation at any age is, of course, beneficial. While the benefits of stopping at about 40 years of age are significant, the healthiest choice is to not pick up the habit in the first place.

About one in six former smokers who quit before age 40 and who die before age 80 would have lived longer if they had never smoked.

Cigarette smoke does not just affect smokers. When you smoke, the people around you also are at risk for developing health problems, especially children. Second-hand smoke can cause chronic respiratory conditions, cancer and heart disease

Credit: Cleveland Clinic

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