A new Israeli study proves that even just cutting back on smoking and not quitting entirely has a positive effect on your heart, and that quitting smoking after a heart attack significantly increases cardiac health later in life.

In the largest and most comprehensive study of its kind, conducted at Tel Aviv University (TAU), researchers found that quitting smoking after a heart attack has about the same positive effect on cardiac health as other major interventions such as lipid-lowering agents like statins or more invasive procedures.

“It’s really the most broad and eye-opening study of its kind,” says Dr. Yariv Gerber of TAU’s Sackler School of Medicine. “Smoking really decreases your life expectancy after a heart attack. Those who have never smoked have a 43% lower risk of succumbing after a heart attack, compared to the persistent smoker.”

But even those with a history of smoking can see their risk sharply decline once they give up the habit. “We found that people who quit smoking after their first heart attack had a 37% lower risk of dying from another, compared to those who continued to smoke,” says Dr. Gerber adding, “The novel aspect in our study is that it is the first to show the benefit of a reduction in smoking.”

The definitive results of the study were reported in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.