Weight gain outweighs smoking risk

Tags: Heart , Obesity , Smoking

Even if quitting smoking results in weight gain, heart disease risk can still be reduced, researchers found.

One recognised risk factor of heart disease is obesity, which has prompted scientists to ponder over whether gaining weight cancels out some benefits of stopping the habit.

However, a study of more than 3,000 people found that their concerns are unfounded, at least for those who do not have diabetes.

People who used to smoke and who had refrained from smoking tobacco for more than four years had a 54% lower risk of developing heart and artery disease than smokers.

Those who recently kicked the habit and had stopped smoking for up to four years saw nearly the same benefit, lowering their relative risk by 53%.

This was even though people who had quit recently were gaining five to 10 pounds on average over a four-year period, while long-term quitters gained one to two pounds.

Usually, weight gain after kicking the habit happens within half a year of stopping, and is not reversed very easily.

Former smokers with diabetes saw similar reductions in their risk of heart disease. For them, however, the change was not significant statistically, perhaps due to their numbers being too small.

The findings of the study can be read in the latest issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association  (Jama).
Dr James Meigs, from Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, US, who is the study's author, said: "We now can say without question that stopping smoking has a very positive effect on cardiovascular risk for patients with and without diabetes, even if they experience the moderate weight gain seen in this study, which matches post-cessation weight increase reported in other studies."

Copyright Press Association 2013

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