Atlanta: Quitting smoking can turn back time.
A year after kicking the habit, smokers` arteries showed
signs of reversing a problem that can set the stage for heart
disease, according to the first big study to test this.
The improvement came even though smokers gained an
average of four kilograms after they quit, researchers found.
Their levels of so-called good cholesterol improved, too.
"A lot of people are afraid to quit smoking because
they`re afraid to gain weight," said the study`s leader, James
Stein, a University of Wisconsin-Madison cardiologist.
The new research shows these people gain a health benefit
even though they pick up pounds that hopefully can be shed
once they`ve gotten used to not smoking, he said.
Smoking is one of the top causes of heart disease, and
about one third of smoking-related deaths in the US are due to
heart disease. A heart attack often motivates longtime smokers
to give it up.
Quitting is known to lower the risk of developing or
dying of lung cancer. This is the first major clinical trial
to show it quickly improves artery health. Results were
published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology
and presented at the group`s annual conference yesterday.
In the study, 1,500 smokers were given one of five
methods to help them quit - nicotine patches; nicotine
lozenges; the drug bupropion, sold as Wellbutrin and Zyban; or
a combination of patches and lozenges or the drug and
lozenges. A sixth group received a dummy treatment.