Heart benefits from quitting smoking outweigh weight gain

People who give up cigarettes have fewer heart problems despite gaining weight

Weight gain, a common downside of quitting smoking, doesn’t appear to wipe out the cardiovascular benefits of kicking the habit. People in a long-term study who quit smoking were about half as likely to experience a heart attack, stroke or other cardiac problem as were people who continued to smoke, researchers report in the March 13 JAMA.

The benefits showed up even when the scientists adjusted the data to account for the weight gain that tends to accompany smoking cessation. But the data were inconclusive as to whether people with diabetes accrued the same benefits from quitting as did people without the condition.

Carole Clair of the University of Lausanne in Switzerland and a team of U.S. researchers analyzed heart health data from 3,251 people over six years of an ongoing Massachusetts health project in which participants undergo physical exams every four years. The group included current smokers, those who quit within the last four years, people who had quit long ago and people who had never smoked. Between-visit weight gain was highest, averaging six pounds, in the more-recent quitters. But the researchers conclude that quitting smoking still yields “a net cardiovascular benefit” on average, no matter the weight gain.

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