The cardiovascular benefits of quitting smoking far exceed any risk from quitting-associated weight gain, according to a new analysis published in The Journal of the American Medical Association. Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in people who have diabetes.
In North America, people gain an average of 6.6 to 13.2 pounds within six months of quitting smoking. Because overweight and obesity are associated with cardiovascular disease, researchers sought to determine whether weight gain associated with stopping smoking negates the cardiovascular benefits of quitting. Carole Clair, MD, MSc, and colleagues looked at data from the Framingham Offspring Study, which follows children of the participants from the original Framingham Heart Study (an ongoing study of heart health in residents of Framingham, Massachusetts). The analysis included information from comprehensive medical exams and histories taken every four to six years from 1984 through 2011, totaling 11,148 individual person-exams.
Based on the data from these exams, participants were categorized as never smokers, current smokers, recent quitters (who had stopped smoking since their last exam), and long-term quitters. At the third medical exam during the study period, 31% of participants were current smokers; by the eighth visit, only 13% were still smoking.
The general trend among all groups of participants was toward gaining weight, with smokers, never smokers, and long-term quitters gaining an average of 1–2 pounds from one study visit to the next, and with recent quitters gaining an average of 5–10 pounds since their previous visit (when they were still smoking).
After a follow-up of roughly 25 years, 631 cardiovascular events (including coronary heart disease, stroke, peripheral artery disease, and congestive heart failure) had occurred in 3,251 participants. But no matter how much weight they gained, six years after quitting the cardiovascular risk was cut in half for people without diabetes, and a similar reduction was seen in cardiovascular rates for people with diabetes.
“We now can say without question that stopping smoking has a very positive effect on cardiovascular risk for patients with and without diabetes, even if they experience the moderate weight gain seen in this study, which matches post-cessation weight increase reported in other studies,” noted James Meigs, MD, MPH, senior author of the analysis.
For more information about the research, read the article “Weight Gain After Quitting Smoking Does Not Negate Health Benefits,” or see the study in The Journal of the American Medical Association. And for help quitting smoking, visit Smokefree.gov.