RESTON, Va. -- The early stages of coronary artery disease in young smokers can be reversed quickly if they choose to put out their cigarettes for good, according to a positron emission tomography (PET) imaging study in the December Journal of Nuclear Medicine.
"I believe this is the first PET study that shows abnormal coronary function is reversible after only one month of smoking cessation," said Nagara Tamaki, a professor and chair of the nuclear medicine department at Hokkaido University in Sapporo, Japan. "Smoking cessation normalized abnormal coronary artery function, thus supporting its value in preventing heart disease in young adults," he explained. "In addition, this is an important report with PET imaging that shows abnormal coronary artery function can be measured by coronary blood flow and flow response to cold stimulation (also called 15O-water PET) in healthy young smokers," noted the co-author of "Smoking Cessation Normalizes Coronary Endothelial Vasomotor Response Assessed With 15O-Water and PET in Healthy Young Smokers." Researchers from the Japanese university also noted that improvement was "preserved" six months after the study's subjects stopped smoking, "supporting the value of smoking cessation for prevention of coronary artery disease particularly in the young," said Tamaki.
"This study provided a noninvasive look at the early stages of coronary artery disease in smokers and the recovery time of coronary endothelial dysfunction after giving up cigarettes," indicated Tamaki. Coronary endothelial dysfunction occurs when the heart's blood vessels aren't flexible enough to expand in response to increased blood flow. Smoking can damage the endotheliumthe innermost layer of the arteryand over time, plaques can narrow coronary arteries, allowing less blood to flow to the heart muscle. Rupture of these plaques may result in a stroke, heart attack and death.