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Quit Smoking Before Age 35 to Regain Health

Kicking Habit for at Least 15 Years Before Middle Age Can Lead to Longer, Healthier Life
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WebMD Health News

June 8, 2004 -- Former smokers can expect to live as long and healthfully as nonsmokers if they manage to quit for at least 15 years before they turn age 50, suggests new research.

"Smoking is harmful at any age, but if you stop smoking before age 35 you may still do pretty well in terms of living longer and having a better quality of life as you reach middle age," says researcher Truls Ostbye, MD, PhD, of Duke University School of Medicine. "By quitting for at least 15 years prior to age 50, you may be able to regain your health as well as people who never smoked."

After analyzing data on some 21,000 Americans 50 and older, he and Duke colleague Donald Taylor, PhD, estimate that people who quit for at least 15 years before reaching middle age are likely to regain the two years usually lost to smoking -- living as long and as well as those who never smoked.

Early Quitting Provides Long-Term Success

That's not to say that it's safe to smoke until age 35, but rather these findings stress the importance of quitting earlier.

"If you wait longer than that to quit, there are certainly benefits compared to not quitting, but you may not be able to catch up to your peers who never smoked at all," Ostbye tells WebMD. "Those who had stopped smoking for at least 15 years were able to catch up."

His study -- published in the June issue of the journal Health Services Research -- was based on information mined from two ongoing surveys in which participants are interviewed every two years by researchers at the University of Michigan: One involving 12,600 men and women between ages 50 and 60, and another on those older than age 70.

In both surveys, participants were questioned on their smoking histories and the perceived effects smoking had on their health and quality of life, and in some cases, their death and disease records were examined. Overall, former smokers typically lived longer and reported better health and quality of life than those who continued to smoke. But when they quit, this translated to living longer and better by anywhere from several months to several years.

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