Weight Gain but Still Cuts Heart Risk: Quitting Smoking

asthma smoking banThere are many ways that quitting smoking improves your wellbeing, but researchers have found that many people are reluctant to give up smoking because they’re worried about gaining weight. However, the same team of American researchers have discovered that even if giving up cigarettes does lead to significant weight gain, your heart wellness will still improve.

According to scientists writing in the Journal of the American Medical Association, stopping smoking cuts your risk of heart disease even if you have gained a significant amount weight gain. The prospect of weight gain after quitting may make you reluctant to stop, but the team found that quitting has a ‘positive effect on cardiovascular risk’. This was discovered to be most evident in people who did not have diabetes, but people with the condition were still said to have benefited.

But that all seems counterintuitive doesn’t it? Isn’t obesity a major risk factor in heart disease? Indeed it is, which has led researchers in the past to examine whether weight gain might cancel out some of the benefits of quitting smoking. On average, people who stop smoking tend to 6-13lb (2.7-5.9kg) over the first six months, according to previous studies. For this JAMA study, the researchers analysed the smoking habits and heart health of over 3,000 people between 1981 and 2011, to look deeper into this issue.

The specific results of the study were that former smokers who had stayed away from tobacco for more than four years had a 54% lower risk of heart and artery disease than smokers. Yet there was still good news for recent quitters, as participants who had stopped smoking for up to four years experienced almost the same benefit with a 53% lower relative risk, in spite of the fact that recent quitters typically gained 5-10lb over a period of four years, and long-term quitters only gained 1-2lb.

Dr James Meigs, one of the authors of the study at Harvard Medical School, praised the study’s findings: ‘We can now say without question that stopping smoking has a very positive effect on cardiovascular risk for patients with and without diabetes, even if they experience moderate weight gain.’ Doireann Maddock, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, added that weight gain should not deter smokers from quitting. ‘If you’re keen to quit smoking but worried about putting on weight, using smoking cessation aids such as inhalators, gum, or lozenges may help you resist the temptation to reach for comfort food in the place of a cigarette,’ she advised.

Comments are closed.