Kicking the Habit in Old Age Can Still Boost Life Expectancy

Man smoking a cigarette

A recent study found that smokers who are kicking the habit in their 60s have a 23 percent less risk of dying in the follow-up period when compared with other smokers. The research team also found the age you first started smoking has a decisive impact on longevity.

Dr. Sarah Nash who led the team explained that the time when someone takes up smoking and kicks the habit are crucial. They can predict mortality in adults over the age 70.

Nash and her fellow researchers found that smoking is strongly associated with early death among smokers aged 70 or older. Past studies found smoking plays a crucial role in the early death of middle-aged smokers.

Researchers wrote that volunteers who started smoking at an early age were more prone to early death after age 70. The risk persisted in smokers who smoked more cigarettes per day.

Nash said that regardless of age smoking cessation benefits all people. Starting smoking early in life ups the risk of early death 50 to 60 years later, the study revealed. Nash believes it is critical to help adolescents stay away from cigarettes.

Researchers published their work in the November issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

The study also confirmed previous facts about smoking and the mortality risk. Experts at the American Lung Association commented on the findings. They noted that smoking is tightly associated with a high risk of dying from cancer, respiratory disease, and heart conditions. The risk increases as the period of smoking increases.

Expert noted that the latest study brings solid proof that quitting can have a real health benefit later in life. Many people in their 60s and 70s don’t see the point of quitting.

“If you stop, you will live longer than if you don’t stop,”

Dr. Norman Edelman of the ALA summed it up.

IN the study, Nash’s team sifted through data on over 160,000 smokers of both sexes aged 70 or more. The volunteers agreed to answer some questions on their smoking habits between 2004 and 2005.

Researchers tracked deaths through 2011.

In the latest study, scientists matched the age at death with the age when volunteers started or quit smoking. The team paid special attention to the causes of death too such as lung cancer, head and neck cancers, leukemia, stomach cancer and so on. Other causes of death were stroke, heart disease, diabetes, and lung disease.

About 56 percent of the cohort were former smokers. Women were more likely to be non-smokers (48 percent) than men (31 percent). Women were nearly twice as likely to take up smoking at the age of 15 (19 percent) than men (10 percent).

Over a 16-year-long period, 16 percent of volunteer died. Of these 12 percent never smoked. Death rates were influenced by the age of cessation: from 16 percent for those who quit in their 30s to 28 percent of those who quit in their 60s. But active smokers after the age of 70 were the most likely to die early – 33 percent.

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