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Study shows senior citizens benefit from quitting smoking

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A new study published in the British Medical Journal shows that quitting smoking after age 60 can reduce the risk of death from heart disease, and risk of a stroke. This study is encouraging for seniors to quit smoking.
Researchers analyzed data on more than half a million people age 60 and older in 23 countries.  Compared with people who never used cigarettes, current smokers were more than twice as likely to die of cardiovascular causes. But for former smokers, the increased risk of death was only 37%.
“We were surprised how clearly and swiftly the risk decreased after quitting smoking,” lead study author Dr. Ute Mons, a scientist at the German Cancer Research Center in Heidelberg, said by email. “The risk reduction is quite comparable to that in younger populations, so the good news is there seems to be no age limit for health benefits from quitting smoking.”

Mons and colleagues reviewed records on smoking habits, as well as medical history and socioeconomic factors for 503,905 participants in previous research projects. The largest study included in their review had 366,919 participants in the U.S.

Among the approximately 475,000 people with records on their cigarette use, 40% never smoked, while about 47% had quit and 12% were current smokers. Overall, 44% of participants were women.

For current smokers, the risk of death increased with the amount of cigarette consumption, with the heaviest smokers 2.6 times more likely to die of cardiovascular causes than people who never smoked.

At the same time, smoking cessation lowered the risk of death. Participants who had quit less than five years beforehand had their risk drop by 10%. Quitting five to nine years before lowered the risk by 16% compared with current smokers. Stopping 10 to 19 years earlier cut risk by 22%, while more than 20 years of cessation decreased the risk by 39%.

Complications from smoking, including strokes, were also less likely to happen in former smokers than in current smokers, the study team reports in BMJ.

The authors also calculated another way of looking at the benefits of quitting. They found that being a current smoker meant cardiovascular problems would arise an average of six years sooner than for never-smokers. But quitting smoking rolled back that “risk advancement,” giving former smokers back an extra two to 2½ healthy years.