Quitting smoking is not only good for your wallet, it can also help to reduce wrinkles, increase vitality, lower your risk for lung cancer and heart disease, intensify taste buds, and increase overall feelings of wellbeing. As if that’s not enough reasons for you to go smoke-free today, a new study has found that smoking can more than triple your risk of dying early.
Despite widespread awareness of the harms of smoking, smoking remains the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. The good news is that it’s never too late to reap the health benefits of going smoking-free. Recently, Richard Peto, a Professor at Oxford University (UK) led a study which examined the costs of smoking and benefits of quitting. The researchers focused primarily on women born in the 1940’s because they are the first generation of women to smoke frequently and habitually. By focusing on these women, the researchers were able to identify the long term effects of smoking as well as the benefits of going smoking-free after smoking for decades. “Only in the 21st century could we observe directly the full effects of prolonged smoking, and of prolonged cessation, on premature mortality among women,” said lead researcher Peto.
Quitting Smoking and the Effect on Lung Cancer
The researchers at Oxford conducted a 12 year study on 1.3 million females over the age of 50. The female participants filled out lifestyle questionnaires and were asked about their social, demographical and medical status. The results of the study (which were published in Lance journal) revealed that women who smoked throughout their lifetimes had a three times greater risk of dying than non-smokers and smokers who quit before they reached middle age. The females who smoked throughout their lives had a much higher risk of dying from lung cancer, chronic lung disease, heart disease, COPD and stroke and the more that they smoked, the greater their chances of dying were. In fact, the study found that smoking decreases a women’s lifespan by an average of 10 years. According to the study, even light smokers (those who smoked 1 to 9 cigarettes per day) had a 200 % greater chance of death than women who did not smoke at all.
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On a positive note, the study also found that many of the negative health effects that are caused by smoking are reversed when a person decides to go smoke-free. For instance, if a woman quits by the age of 30 she can reduce her risk of premature death by a whopping 97 % and if she quits by the age of 40 she can reduce her risk of death by 90%. According to the researchers “Even cessation at about 50 years of age avoids at least two-thirds of the continuing smoker’s excess mortality in later middle age.”
Avoiding Quitting Smoking… and Living Smoke Free
Many women avoid quitting smoking because they are worried that they will gain weight if they do so. Although quitting can result in immediate weight gain, after a month or two your metabolism will even out and the weight gain should subside. In order to minimize or avoid weight gain you should drink 8 cups of water daily and partake in physical activities that you actually enjoy– skiing, walking, biking, swimming and tennis are all great examples. Also keep processed food out of your house and stock your kitchen with healthy snacks, such as nuts and seeds, fruit, pre-cut veggies and edamame. Choose one day a week to prepare these foods because if they are already prepared you will be much more inclined to consume them when a snack attack hits. All of these change in combination with quitting smoking, will not only lead to a longer life, but also to a healthier, happier, younger looking and more energetic you!