Quitting Smoking by 40 Can Add a Decade to Your Life

By Chrisanne Grise 01/24/13

New research finds stopping before middle age can slash the long-term risks.

Quitting in middle age can add years down
the line.
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Quitting smoking before middle age can add a decade to your life, new research finds. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that smokers who never kick the habit lose about ten years of life expectancy, whereas those who quit before age 35 end up gaining back all those years. But even giving up cigarettes later in life can add significantly to your life span. The study found that 35-44 year-old quitters earned back nine of those years, quitters between 45 and 54 gained back six, and those aged 55-64 got four years back. Still, researchers caution younger smokers not to wait until they are middle-aged to quit. Although the risks of heart disease and stroke decrease quickly once tobacco smoke no longer clogs the arteries, damage to the lungs takes much longer to heal. “The risk for lung cancer doesn’t disappear and the risk of respiratory disease doesn’t disappear [in former smokers],” says study lead Prabhat Jha, an epidemiologist at the Center for Global Health Research in Toronto. “But the acute risk for heart attack or stroke pretty much disappears.” The study offers good news for quitters, but a warning for those who continue to puff away. Current smokers involved in the study were three times more likely to die early than those who never smoked; only 38% of female smokers and 26% of male smokers reached age 80, compared to 70% of women and 61% of men who never smoked.

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Chrisanne Grise is a multimedia journalist specializing in health/fitness, lifestyle, travel, bridal, and music. Her work has appeared in print and online for publications such as Martha Stewart Weddings, Parents, FitnessMagazine, Fisher Price, Bridal Guide, Scholastic's Choices, AbsolutePunk.net, Chorus.fm, and more. She is the Senior Editor at The New York Times Upfront. Follow her on Linkedin and Twitter.