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The little-known heart health benefit of quitting smoking

by , 21 December 2017
The little-known heart health benefit of quitting smoking
Quitting smoking comes with many benefits. After one day, your lungs start to clear. After two days, your body is free of nicotine and your sense of smell and taste improve. After three days, your energy levels increase and you can breathe more easily.

And the list of benefits has just been extended - a study published in the American Heart Journal has revealed that smokers who've quit may also have improved cholesterol profiles. Read on to learn more about the mysterious relationship between smoking and cholesterol.

American study finds a link between quitting smoking and improved cholesterol profile

Smoking is to blame for approximately 20% of heart disease deaths, according to statistics. While scientists haven’t been able to understand clearly what underlies the effect, they’ve suggested that lowered oxygen levels are to blame to some extent.
 
What’s more, smaller studies have associated smoking lowers good (HDL) cholesterol and raises bad (LDL) cholesterol, said Dr Adam Gepner of the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health in Madison in the USA.
 
To analyse the effect of smoking on cholesterol levels more accurately, Dr Gepner and his team of researchers followed 1,500 Americans. All subjects were smokers, while some were overweight and obese as well. On average, subjects smoked 21 cigarettes a day. After a year on one of five smoking cessation programmes, 36% of the subjects were able to quit smoking.


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Dr Gepner and his team concluded that subjects who gave up smoking had an average rise in HDL cholesterol of 5%, the study read. Furthermore, they had an increase in large HDL particles. For a reason unknown to the researchers, the effect was stronger in women.
 
What’s also interesting is that it seemed it didn’t matter how many cigarettes subjects smoked per day at baseline – both heavy and lighter smokers reaped the same cholesterol benefits.
 

On the downside, quitting smoking may lead to weight gain

Unfortunately, there’s a downside to quitting smoking, the researchers found – weight gain! While the group of subjects who stopped smoking improved their cholesterol profiles, they also picked up an average of 4.5 kg. On the flip side, subjects who relapsed to smoking only picked up 0.5 kg to 1 kg.
 
At the start of the study, most of the subjects were overweight with an average body mass index (BMI) of 29.6. Dr Gepner said that he thinks the weight gain may have offset some of the beneficial effects seen in the subjects who abstained. He explained, “Further benefits on cholesterol levels may have been actually masked by the weight gain seen after quitting.”
 
“It is important to counsel quitters about weight gain and the need for a healthy diet and regular exercise during the quitting period,” Dr Gepner added.

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