"I'm a 65-year-old smoker. Is it too late for me to see any real cardiovascular benefits from quitting?" Here's our advice.
As you probably know, smoking is a significant risk factor for stroke, heart attack and cardiovascular death. The good news is that it's never too late to quit smoking to gain health benefits -- and this applies even to those over the age of 50, as one large European study found.
Researchers from the German Cancer Research Center looked at the lifetime smoking history of more than 8,800 smokers, former smokers and never-smokers ages 50 to 74 who had never had a stroke or heart attack.
The results, published in 2013 in the European Journal of Epidemiology showed that a smoker's risk of cardiovascular disease was more than twice that of those who had never smoked, and that the number of cigarettes smoked per day and how long a person smoked worsened risk. The research also showed that smokers' risk of cardiovascular disease was elevated at much younger ages than nonsmokers or people who had quit.
However, the risk could virtually be reversed -- and in a short time. Within five years of quitting, the study found, the risk of heart attack and stroke was reduced by more than 40 percent.
As the research shows, smoking cessation is beneficial at any age, so if you're looking to quit, there's no reason not to do so. Speak with your healthcare provider about tools that can increase your chance of long-term success. These include nicotine replacement therapy, prescription medications, counseling and support groups.