Harvard Heart Letter

Weight gain after quitting smoking does not increase heart risk

People who quit smoking usually gain weight, making them question whether the unwanted pounds might negate the benefits of quitting. A study conducted at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital may help settle this issue. The researchers used data from the long-term Framingham Offspring Study, whose participants receive medical examinations every four to six years. They found that recent quitters gained an average of 5 to 10 pounds since their last visit, and those who had quit long ago gained an average of 1 to 2 pounds between visits. Compared with participants who continued to smoke, those who had stopped smoking experienced a 50% drop in their risk of heart attack, stroke, and death from heart-related causes in six years after quitting, regardless of how many pounds they gained (Journal of the American Medical Association, March 13, 2013).

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