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Smokers more likely to die of heart disease than lung cancer, study shows

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Photo: matdesign24/iStockphoto

Chicago — If you smoke, you’re at greater risk of dying of heart disease than lung cancer – with fatal heart attacks and strokes often striking without prior warning, according to a recent study.

Researchers at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine used data from more than 106,000 adults who had not been diagnosed with cardiovascular disease. They found that, “over several decades,” more than half of the participants who smoked between the ages of 40 and 59 developed cardiovascular disease. In addition, the participants were almost two times more likely than nonsmokers to die of a heart attack, stroke or heart failure without prior warning.

“One of the most important findings of this analysis is that the first sign of cardiovascular disease is more likely to be a fatal event in those who smoke,” lead study author Sadiya Khan, an assistant professor of medicine at NU and a cardiologist, said in a university press release. “Smoking is more likely to kill people from heart disease even before someone may know they have heart disease.”

According to the American Heart Association report Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics – 2021 Update, 34 million U.S. adults smoke cigarettes and around 480,000 die annually from smoking-related cardiovascular disease. Khan said that number “may have increased with the added stress of the pandemic.”

The study was published online Nov. 17 in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

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