Smokers Shave 10 Years from Life Expectancy

But: Stop by age 40, reduce risk by 90%

Most people associate cigarette smoking with breathing problems and lung cancer. But smoking is also strongly linked to cardiovascular disease.

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Atherosclerosis

Atherosclerosis

The link between smoking and cardiovascular disease

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 that can restrict blood flow to the heart, legs, brain, kidneys and other organs leading to peripheral or coronary artery disease. The decrease in supply of oxygen-rich blood to the heart or brain can lead to heart attack or stroke.

Tips to help you quit smoking

Results of a new study

The Bad News: A recently published study that examined the hazards of smoking and benefits of cessation has found that smokers lose at least one decade of life expectancy compared with people who have never smoked.

The Good News: The study also found that people who quit smoking by age 40 reduce their risk of smoking-related death by an astounding 90 percent.

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So if you are thinking of quitting—there’s no time like the present.

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

Compelling evidence

“The reduction in death rates continues into an individual’s late 50s, although obviously not as profound,” says Lee Kirksey, MD, Cleveland Clinic vascular surgeon and an expert in peripheral artery disease (PAD). 

Smoking increases the risk of death from lung cancer, heart attack and stroke by 200 percent. “We have always counseled patients to quit smoking to avoid these negative consequences,” Dr. Kirksey says. “We now have very compelling evidence that patients who make the prudent decision can effectively add years to their life expectancy.”

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Landmark study

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.

Dr. Kirksey calls the recent report, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, a “landmark study” and says it will change the way that he and his colleagues counsel patients who smoke—especially those who may resist smoking cessation claiming that the damage is already done. “These data will allow us to continue to promote smoking cessation in a much more positive way,” he says.

Learn about smoking cessation at Cleveland Clinic