A lot of folks are concerned about gaining weight after they quit smoking. Some folks worry about how they’ll look, or if they’ll fit into their “skinny” jeans. Other folks wonder whether the health effects that can come from extra weight would cancel out any benefit from quitting smoking.
Today, JAMA published the results of a study(1) that examined that very question. (JAMA used to be called the Journal of the American Medical Association.) The researchers involved watched what happened over time when real people quit smoking. Specifically, they tracked about 3200 people who didn’t have any evidence of cardiovascular disease from 1984 through 2011. Every four years, researchers would check in with this group of people and find out how they were doing. Doctors would check their weight, heart rate, blood pressure, and so forth; patients would report whether or not they smoked; and they’d discuss how their health had been over the years since the previous exam.
Over that 25 year span, some people quit smoking. Over that 25 year span, some people had heart attacks, or had strokes, or developed congestive heart failure.
What researchers found when they analysed who had cardiovascular events shouldn’t come as a surprise:
- folks who quit smoking within the past four years (between one check-up and the next) were only half as likely to have a bad cardiovascular event
- folks who quit smoking more than four years beforehand had, again, about half the chance of having a bad cardiovascular event
- folks who never started smoking had only one-third the chance of having a bad cardiovascular event
- and the benefits of quitting smoking held up even for those who gained weight after quitting.
So, don’t let fear of gaining weight hold you back from doing what might be the single best thing smokers can do for their health: quit. If you need help, contact your healthcare provider or call 800-QUIT-NOW.