A DISTURBING new study has found cigarettes are causing 17 preventable deaths a day in Australia – or 6400 every year – from stroke and other cardiovascular diseases.
The comprehensive study – touted as the most in-depth of its kind in the world – found smoking was more damaging than previously thought, impacting the entire cardiovascular system.
Led by Australian National University Professor Emily Banks, researchers followed more than 180,000 smokers and non-smokers for seven years, examining 36 different types of cardiovascular diseases.
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The study found Australia’s 2.7 million smokers were twice as likely to suffer a stroke, heart attack or heart failure, and were three times as likely to die from these diseases compared to people who had never smoked.
It also found smokers were five times more likely to develop peripheral cardiovascular diseases such as gangrene.
Limiting the number of cigarettes smoked daily also doesn’t help much, with the research finding people who smoke an average five cigarettes a day were still twice as likely to be killed by cardiovascular disease.
Those who quit for good, however, and stop smoking by the age of 45 are said to avoid about 90 per cent of the cardiovascular risks.
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 altogether.
“Too many families continue to be devastated by stroke and heart disease when it could have been prevented,’’ Acting Professor Gall said.
“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.”
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.
Acting Professor 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.”
The new data was published in the international journal BMC Medicine on Thursday.
Talk to your doctor about quitting or call the national Quitline on 12 78 48 (13 QUIT).