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Older women who quit smoking can cut heart disease risk regardless of diabetes status

Postmenopausal women who quit smoking reduced their risk of heart disease, regardless of whether they had diabetes, according to a new study conducted by Juhua Luo, an epidemiologist at the Indiana University School of Public Health-Bloomington.

Her findings, "Smoking Cessation, Weight Change and Coronary Heart Disease Among Postmenopausal Women With and Without Diabetes," were published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Women who gained more than 5 kilograms or 11 pounds after they quit smoking still saw their risk for cardiovascular disease drop. But their risk didn't drop as much as for those who gained less than 11 pounds, which Luo notes was the majority of the women.

"Our study found that if you quit smoking, even for older women, the benefits start pretty quickly, within years," said Luo, assistant professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the School of Public Health. "It's never too late to benefit from quitting smoking."

The study analyzed data for 104,391 postmenopausal women ages 50 to 79 who participated in the National Institutes of Health-funded Women's Health Initiative. Here are some of the findings:

Among women without diabetes, women who quit smoking within the past three years had a 26 percent lower risk of developing heart disease compared with women who continued smoking. Women who had quit smoking for more than three years had a 61 percent lower risk. Among women with diabetes, those who quit smoking had about a 60 percent lower risk for heart disease, regardless of how recently they had quit.

The majority of women in the study gained less than 11 pounds after they quit smoking and saw the same general drop in their heart disease risk as stated above.

The smaller number of women who gained more than 11 pounds had less heart-health benefit from stopping smoking, especially for women with diabetes.

This study is the first to observe a substantially reduced risk of heart disease after post-menopausal women with and without diabetes quit smoking. Co-authors of the study are Jacques Rossouw, National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute in Bethesda, Md.; and Karen L. Margolis, HealthPartners Institute for Education and Research in Minneapolis.

To speak with Luo, contact Tracy James at 812-855-0084 or

Tracy James | EurekAlert!
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