Australians who smoke have been dealt a harsh reality check today, with a disturbing new study revealing cigarettes were causing 17 preventable deaths a day from stroke and other cardiovascular diseases.
The comprehensive study, led by Australian National University Professor Emily Banks, found smoking was more damaging than previously thought, impacting the entire cardiovascular system. It found current smokers were doubling their risk of stroke, heart attacks and heart failure, and tripling their risk of dying from these diseases, compared to people who had never smoked.
Stroke Foundation Clinical Council Member Associate Professor Seana Gall said the study showed that at least 30 percent of strokes could be prevented if we could eliminate smoking.
“Too many families continue to be devastated by stroke and heart disease when it could have been prevented,” A/Prof Gall said.
“This study shows even those smokers who averaged five cigarettes a day, were doubling their risk of stroke compared to non-smokers.
“It doesn’t matter what age you are or how many cigarettes you smoke, they are all causing harm, but the good news is by quitting, individuals can reverse this damage and live a long healthy life.
“The risk of heart attack and stroke starts to drop immediately after a person stops using tobacco products, and after 15 years, your risk of stroke and heart attack is almost the same as that of a person who has never smoked,” she said.
Smoking can lead to stroke in a number of ways. It increases blood pressure, it contains thousands of toxic chemicals which get absorbed into the blood stream damaging blood vessels and causing arteries to narrow and harden and it makes the blood stickier, which can lead to blood clots.
A/Prof Gall said Australia was tracking well in reducing smoking rates and stopping teens from taking up the habit in the first place, however more must be done.
“While smoking prevalence has fallen over time, around 2.7 million Australians currently smoke and we must continue to help people quit through government measures and anti-smoking campaigns,” she said.
“I recognise giving up smoking is hard, and you may not be able to do it the first or even the second attempt, but saying goodbye to cigarettes is worth it for yourself and those who love you.”
This research is the largest and most comprehensive study of smoking and cardiovascular disease ever and followed more than 180,000 smokers and non-smokers over a seven year period, examining 36 different types of cardiovascular disease.
Talk to your doctor about quitting or call the national Quitline on 12 78 48 (13 QUIT).