Clean life linked to lower mortality in former smokers

An important message for former smokers: you can overcome a history of vice through virtue.

According to researchers, people with a history of smoking who exercise regularly, eat nutritious foods and maintain a healthy weight can reduce their risk of premature death by up to 30% compared to those who don’t. such good habits.

“Engaging in multiple aspects of a healthy lifestyle was associated with lower mortality risk than engaging in one aspect,” said Maki Inoue-Choi, PhD, epidemiologist at the National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, Maryland, who led the new study. “Ex-smokers may benefit from one of the healthy lifestyle recommendations, but experience an even greater benefit if they follow more than one.”

For the study published in Open JAMA Network, Inoue-Choi and her colleagues analyzed survey data from 159,937 former smokers in the United States. The data was part of a larger review of some 570,000 people participating in the National Institutes of Health-AARP Diet and Health Study. The study’s primary endpoint was mortality on or before December 31, 2019, and participants had an average follow-up period of about 19 years.

Former smokers who adhered to the health recommendations were up to 27% less likely to die during the study period than those who did not follow the suggestions.

The effect appears to be cumulative. According to the researchers, the risk of all-cause mortality was 12% lower for those who met the health recommendations on average and 4% lower for those who met slightly above the average. People who adhered more closely to recommendations were also less likely to die from cancer, cardiovascular disease and respiratory conditions during the study period, they found.

Overall death rates were lower among those who quit earlier. However, better adherence to healthy lifestyle recommendations was associated with a lower risk of death, regardless of when a person quit smoking.

More than 50 million Americans have quit smoking, according to Inoue-Choi. Previous studies have shown substantial health benefits related to a healthier lifestyle and quitting smoking.

“Ex-smokers are an important group of people who, by the nature of their smoking cessation, may be particularly motivated to adhere to other evidence-based healthy lifestyle recommendations,” she said. .

Evidence shows that alcohol consumption and smoking have increased during the pandemic, but according to Inoue-Choi, there is very little research on the effects of these increases on former smokers.

According to Hilary Tindle MD, MPH, founding director of the Vanderbilt Center for Tobacco Addiction and Lifestyle, Nashville, Tennessee, the new findings are important because of the message they send to patients.

“You don’t have to be the poster child for health — mid-term adherence always decreases mortality. Even if you follow some of the recommendations, you’re supporting your overall health,” Tindle said .

JAMA Netw Open. Published online September 22, 2022. Full text

The study was funded by the National Cancer Institute’s Intramural Research Program for Official Government Employee Duties. Inoue-Choi does not report any relevant financial relationship. Tindle does not report any relevant financial relationships.

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