It is well perceived that smoking accelerates the risk of heart disease, but now researchers say that every cigarette has the inherent capacity for the development of a heart attack.This is because each cigarette appears to have a startling - and almost immediate impact on the cardiovascular system.
In a study of heart attack patients, the researchers found that those who smoked a cigarette within six hours of developing symptoms had bigger blood clots in their arteries than those who had not smoked for a longer period of time. In general, the blood clot, or thrombus, that leads to a heart attack was larger in smokers than in non-smokers. Larger clots increase both the risk and severity of heart attacks as it is more likely to block blood flow to the heart completely. The less blood that gets to the heart, the more severe the damage.
Researchers studied 800 heart attack patients who were given angiograms before the blocked artery was opened with balloon angioplasty or stenting. The average clot size of those who smoked a cigarette in the six hours before their heart attack was 25 square millimetres.In those who had smoked a cigarette between six and 24 hours before their attack the average clot size was 10.5 square millimetres. And for those who had not smoked a cigarette within 24 hours of their attack, the average size was just 5.7 square millimetres.
"Within five years of kicking the habit, smokers can significantly reduce their risk of heart disease by half - and this research reflects the fact that it can never be too soon to quit." Says the lead researcher Dr Murray Mittleman, of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.