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Extra Pounds after Quitting Smoking is Still Healthier than Smoking, Study Says

Update Date: Mar 12, 2013 10:49 PM EDT

Researchers writing in the Journal of the American Medical Association say that smokers admit the prospect of weight gain makes some reluctant to quit the habit. The study investigated if the weight gain following smoking cessation would counteract the positive effects quitting has on your cardiovascular system. 

"Cigarette smoking has short- and long-term cardiovascular effects that are reversible shortly after cessation," according to the study authors.

The JAMA research looked at the smoking habits and heart health of more than 3,200 people between 1981 and 2011. For the study, researchers first divided up the data into four "mini-studies," explained lead author Carole Clair in statement. Each mini study had a time span of about 6 years. The researchers then recorded the participants' weight at the beginning and end of each mini study, and classified the participants into one of four categories: smoker, recent quitter, long-term quitter or non-smoker.

The study found 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.

Dr James Meigs, one of the authors of the study at Harvard Medical School, said: "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 said 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."

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