Can I lower my risk of heart disease even if I've been smoking for many years?

It’s never too late to lower your risk of heart disease. The risk of heart disease rapidly decreases once you stop smoking.

In the first twenty four hours after quitting, your blood pressure and pulse return to normal, as do the oxygen and carbon monoxide levels in your blood. This alone relieves some of the extra stress you have been imposing on your heart.

Within three months after quitting, you will experience a sharpening of the senses of taste and smell. Your circulation will be improved and your lungs may work at up to 30 percent greater capacity.

After a year, your risk of CHD will be about halfway between a smoker’s and a nonsmoker’s. Abnormality of blood clotting due to a higher level of fibrinogen (a component of blood that makes blood clotting, possible) and platelets (particles in the blood that by aggregation make the clots possible) related to smoking will disappear, but it takes longer to undo the damage to the arteries. If your smoking has contributed to plaque deposits in the coronary or other arteries, the damage can only be mitigated with time and effort. Combining proper food choices, exercise, and drugs if needed (and even surgery in more extreme cases), you can slowly undo some of this damage.
In three to five years the risk of heart disease, as well as the risk of stroke, will drop to the level of nonsmokers, no matter the number of cigarettes or the years you smoked. Unfortunately, the risk of lung diseases does not subside so quickly, especially if any kind of cancer has started or if some parts of the lungs have already been damaged by emphysema. However, the sooner you stop smoking, the greater your chance of slowing the progress of these diseases, and if you do not have these problems already, your risk of lung and oral cancers will continue to decline, reaching the nonsmokers’ level in ten to twelve years after quitting.


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