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New study reveals fatal heart attack or stroke could be first sign of cardiovascular disease in some smokers

EL PASO, Texas - The American Heart Association has published a new study revealing that a fatal heart attack or stroke could be the first sign of cardiovascular disease in some smokers.

ABC-7 spoke with local cardiovascular medicine Dr. Debabrata Mukherjee about the study's findings. Mukherjee is Chair of the Department of Internal Medicine at Texas Tech Physicians of El Paso.

"We have known for many years that smoking increases the risk of heart disease having stroke having heart failure and die," said Mukherjee. "What the study shows is that the first event or cardiovascular event may not be just heart attack or stroke, but when we have fatal heart attack or stroke, people may not get a second chance. The study also shows that smoking reduces the lifespan of an individual by several years, typically four to five years."

The study also explores that it's possible to be unaware that you have cardiovascular disease if you're a smoker. "Whether they're a smoker or not, sometimes cardiovascular disease can be silent," explained Mukherjee. "People can have blockages and may not feel the pain. This is particularly true of older individuals and those with diabetes, but even young individuals may not feel the discomfort. So people may be unaware. Or sometimes if you're young, you may just chalk it up to being musculoskeletal pain or reflux pain and ignore that. So it's certainly possible to have silent myocardial disease."

Mukherjee has a simple reminder for people who smoke. "I reaffirm to my patients, even those who are not smoking, that certainly smoking is an independent risk factor for developing cardiovascular disease," he said. "It leads to blockages or coronary artery disease, blockages in the brain, cerebral vascular disease causing a stroke can cause heart failure. It also increases all cause mortality and somebody who smokes 20 cigarettes is going to be a much higher risk than somebody who smokes maybe four to five but any smoking is bad."

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Mark Ross

Mark Ross is an anchor/producer for ABC-7.

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