Mar. 11, 1998 ROCHESTER, MINN. -- The people who need to stop smoking the most are the least likely to stop says a new Mayo Clinic study of heart patients. The study appears in the March issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings.
Mayo researchers looked at the smoking patterns of more than 5,400 patients who had angioplasties (heart vessel clearing procedures) at Mayo Clinic over a 16-year period. They found that 21 percent of these patients were smokers at the time of the procedure. Of this group:
* 63 percent continued to smoke after their procedure
* 51 percent continued to smoke even after a prior heart attack
* Less than 10 percent sought help from the Mayo Nicotine Dependence Center
They found that the patients most likely to continue smoking were those who would benefit most from smoking cessation -- patients who were younger, smoked the most and had more risk factors for development of coronary artery disease (diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol and family history of heart disease).
"The study provides some good baseline information on the kind of problem we're up against," says Dr. Gerald Gau, a cardiologist and one of the study authors. "Even with these life-threatening kind of events, people continue to smoke. Nicotine is a very addictive drug."
The researchers say that angioplasties should be considered a "window of opportunity" to refer patients to smoking cessation programs. "The study clearly shows that if we don't take aggressive action at these times when we've got their attention, most smokers are going to keep right on smoking," says Dr. Gau.
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