One of the most important indicators of how a patient is doing after a heart attack is the frequency and degree of angina – pain or heaviness in the chest that can radiate into the left arm and neck.
It sometimes includes nausea and shortness of breath.
“Even in people who smoked and had a heart attack, we see fairly rapid improvements in health and quality of life when they quit smoking after their heart attacks,” said senior study author Sharon Cresci, assistant professor of medicine at Washington University’s school of medicine.
For this, the researchers analysed data from about 4,000 patients participating in several large trials investigating heart attacks and recovery.
Of the active smokers, 46 percent quit in the first year following their heart attacks.
The patients who quit after the heart attacks had an intermediate level of recovery but were markedly better than the active smokers, who fared the worst in the amount of chest pain they experienced.
Angina can be quite debilitating for patients
“Episodes of angina are scary, especially when patients have just had a heart attack. The symptoms are a signal that the heart is not getting enough oxygen, which affects the quality of people’s daily lives,” Cresci noted.
Cresci emphasised that standard care for smokers who have had heart attacks includes offering support to help them quit smoking.
The study appeared online in the journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes.