30-year study finds non-smokers live longer, have healthier hearts

May 9th, 2009 - 5:07 pm ICT by IANS  

London, May 9 (IANS) A 30-year study on the health and lifestyle habits of 54,000 Norwegians has found that non-smokers had healthier hearts and also lived longer than smokers.
The researchers concluded that smoking is “strongly” linked to death and cardiovascular disease.

Cardiovascular disease is the main cause of death in Europe where it kills more than two million people every year. Many of these deaths are preventable, said health experts.

Haakon Meyer, professor at the University of Oslo and the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, said their findings confirm those of many other studies, but in particular they show the absolute, long-term “real life” risk of smoking.

He and his colleagues started the study in 1974 when they invited every man and woman aged between 35 and 49 years living in three counties in Norway to take part in a cardiovascular screening exam.

The response was huge and over 90 percent of those invited attended the baseline screening.

For the next 30 years the researchers tracked deaths among the participants by looking at the Norwegian population registry.

From 2006 to 2008 they asked the survivors to complete a questionnaire that included questions about their smoking habits and their health and disease incidents.

From the responses Meyer and colleagues were able to group the participants as never-smoked, ex-smokers and current smokers in three categories, one to nine cigarettes a day, 10 to 19, and more than 20 a day.

The results showed that by the time of follow up, 13,103 (24 percent) of the original 54,075 participants had died.

Forty-five percent of the heavy smoking men, more than 20 cigarettes a day, had died over the period of the study compared to only 18 percent of never-smoked men. And 33 percent of the heavy smoking women had died compared to 13 of the never-smoked women.

The cumulative incidence of heart attacks was 21 percent in the heavy smoking men and 10 percent in the never-smoked men.

The figures for women were 11 percent in the heavy smokers and four percent in the never-smoked. Strong links were also found between smoking and stroke and diabetes, said an university release.

These findings were presented at the EuroPRevent 2009 conference in Stockholm May 6-9.

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