Young people who continue to smoke after a heart attack are three times more likely to have future heart problems than survivors who kick the habit, Greek researchers said on Saturday.
People who are 35 or younger who keep smoking are far more prone to die from a heart-related event, have a repeat heart attack or need future treatments to clear blocked arteries compared to those who stopped smoking.
The study makes clear that smoking not only promotes a first heart attack, but poses heart risks in younger patients who have survived one, researchers said. The report was presented at the American College of Cardiology meeting in Chicago.
“Patients who have suffered a heart attack very early in life can significantly improve their long-term prognosis by quitting smoking,” Dr. Loukianos Rallidis of the University General Hospital Attikon in Greece said in statement.
Rallidis and colleagues studied nearly 150 patients in Greece who had suffered a heart attack before the age of 36 and followed them for 10 years.
“More than 50 percent of these young patients continued to smoke after the first heart attack. Almost 50 percent of these patients had a second cardiac event,” Rallidis told a media briefing. “Only 18 percent who stopped smoking had a second event.”
Rallidis found in a previous study that 95 percent of Greek patients who had a heart attack before age 36 were smokers.
“I think this is an example of kerosene on a forest fire,” said Dr. Janet Wright, a cardiologist from Chico, California, who moderated a news conference.
“If they don’t do something it is like scuffing up their arteries and promoting a second heart attack,” she said.
Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of men and women in the United States and in most industrialized countries. Smoking is the main cause of heart disease.