A new study offers more evidence that quitting smoking after a heart attack is a no-brainer: Researchers found it reduces chest pain and boosts mental health and quality of life.
The study looked at more than 4,000 American adults who were assessed one, six and 12 months after suffering a heart attack. It included patients who were smokers at the time of their heart attack (37 percent), smokers who quit before their heart attack (34 percent) and people who never smoked (29 percent). Forty-six percent of current smokers quit smoking within a year after their heart attacks, the researchers found.
Patients who had never smoked had the best health by the end of the follow-up period. The health of smokers who didn’t quit after their heart attack continued to decline. They were more likely to have chest pain, poorer physical functioning and quality of life, along with worse mental health, the study revealed.
Levels of chest pain and mental health among smokers who quit before their heart attack and of smokers who quit within a year after their heart attack were similar to that of patients who never smoked, the study found.
The study was published Aug. 25 in the journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes.
“Health care providers should counsel patients about how smoking cessation not only reduces the risk of death and having another heart attack, but also reduces the risk of having chest pain and may likely improve general mental health,” study author and psychologist Donna Buchanan said in a journal news release.
The findings offer more evidence about the harmful effects of smoking and the need for more education for heart attack patients, added Buchanan, a researcher and manager with Saint Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute’s cardiovascular outcomes research group.
Buchanan suggested that the results might give current smokers more motivation to quit.
“Current educational efforts tend to focus on how continued smoking increases the risk of recurrent heart attack and death, but health-related quality of life is often equally or more important to patients than longevity,” she concluded.
The American Academy of Family Physicians offers recovery and health tips for heart attack survivors.