International study finds one in five heart patients continue to smoke

An international survey published (Thursday 6 October) in Europe's leading cardiology journal, European Heart Journal[1], reveals that fewer than half of the heart patients in the study who smoked quit after suffering their first coronary event, with one out of five continuing to smoke despite advice to stop.

Epidemiologist and lead author of the study, Dr Wilma Scholte op Reimer, said it was "unbelievable" that so many carried on smoking after a life-threatening event for which smoking is a major risk factor. "It makes me wonder if they are truly aware of the risk that they are taking," she said.

The survey EUROASPIRE II[2] undertaken during 1999 and 2000, involved 5,551 coronary patients aged up to seventy in 47 hospitals in 15 European countries. They were interviewed around 16 months after the event or condition for which they entered hospital coronary artery bypass, balloon angioplasty, heart attack or unstable angina. The patients were asked if they had ever smoked, whether they had smoked in the month prior to hospital admission and whether they currently smoked, with smokers who denied currently smoking being tested for carbon monoxide in their breath. The survey was a follow-up to EUROASPIRE I five years earlier and found similar results.

Of the 5,551 patients, 21% were still persistent smokers 39% of those under 50, 26% of those aged 50-60 and 14% of those aged around 60. Men and women had similar prevalence. Nearly all (99%) of the 2,244 pre-heart event smokers had been advised by a health professional to stop, and 48% had done so.

"We found that younger patients were less likely to quit only 41% of under 50s and that those with angina were less likely to quit than those who had suffered a heart attack (38% as against 52%)," said Dr Scholte op Reimer who works at the Erasmus University Medical Centre in Rotterdam, The Netherlands.

The worrying finding that those with angina were less likely to stop than hear

Contact: Margaret Willson
European Society of Cardiology

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