Harvard Women's Health Watch

Quit smoking and live longer

Even if it takes until age 50 to finally kick the habit, you can dramatically improve your life span by quitting smoking, finds a British study of more than a million women published in The Lancet. The study was noteworthy in that it looked at the dangers of long-term smoking and the benefits of quitting over several years. The study tracked the women's smoking habits on surveys completed at recruitment, as well as three and eight years later. At the eight-year follow-up, 44% of the smokers had quit. Those who still smoked at the end of the study faced a death rate triple that of women who'd never smoked—in all, they lost about 10 years of their lives. Most of the deaths were from diseases attributed to smoking, such as lung cancer and heart disease. The earlier women quit smoking, the better their odds of surviving. Stopping before age 40 avoided more than 90% of the excess death risk caused by smoking. But even those who quit at around age 50 had a much lower risk of death than current smokers. If you or someone you know needs help quitting, visit women.smokefree.gov or call 800-QUIT-NOW.

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