If you’re one of the 52 million former smokers in the United States, good job! You’ve made a commitment to your health and well-being, so why not keep the ball rolling?

A new study shows that by stopping smoking and adding a handful of other healthy behaviors you can increase your lifespan significantly. Here’s the story…

Scientists analyzed data from 160,000 former smokers who participated in the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study.1 These participants, with an average age of 62, completed questionnaires about their lifestyle, personal information, and other health-related information beginning in 1995.

Over the next 19 years, 86,127 of them died. The researchers then retrieved information regarding their cause of death. Lead author Dr. Maki Inoue-Choi said the research team wished to determine if people who quit smoking could further reduce their risk of death by adopting other healthy lifestyle habits.

It turns out, the answer is a resounding yes.

Lower Risk of Death From illness 

Dr. Inoue-Choi and her team found that former smokers who maintain a healthy weight, stay active, eat a healthy diet, and limit alcohol have a 27 percent reduction in risk of death compared to those who don’t follow a healthy lifestyle.2 They also discovered that participants experienced a lower risk of dying from cancer, heart disease, lung disease, and other issues.

Dr. Inoue-Choi notes that those study participants who followed the greatest number of healthy lifestyle recommendations fared best. However, even former smokers who adopted only a single healthy habit experienced significant longevity benefits.

Ex-smokers who were most earnest about following a healthy lifestyle showed a 30 percent reduction in risk of death from respiratory disease, a 28 percent reduction in death from cardiovascular disease, and a 24 percent reduction in death from cancer.

“We found evidence that all former smokers would benefit from adhering to healthy lifestyle recommendations … regardless of how much they had smoked per day or how long ago they had quit smoking,” Dr. Inoue-Choi said.

The doctor went on to stress the significance of the study.

“The key message for public health is that all former smokers may additionally benefit from adhering to healthy lifestyle recommendations, regardless of their prior smoking use,” she said.

I’d also like to add that you will experience health benefits wherever you are on your smoking cessation journey. And if you or a loved one is of the “quitting won’t make a difference” mindset, read on. Medical News Today offers a practical timeline of tangible health benefits to help bust that myth.3

What Happens After You Quit 

After one day: You’ve already lowered your risk of heart attack. Smoking raises the risk of heart disease by lowering good cholesterol. And it also causes high blood pressure and greater incidence of blood clots, increasing the risk of stroke.

After one month: Your lung function begins to improve. You’re apt to notice less coughing and shortness of breath.

After one year: Your risk for coronary heart disease decreases by half. Plus, this risk continues to drop well beyond the one-year mark.

After five years: Arteries and blood vessels are healthier. Now the body has healed itself enough from the damage caused by smoking for the arteries and blood vessels to begin to widen again. That means you’re less likely to suffer a dangerous blood clot, lowering the risk of stroke.

After ten years: You have a lower risk of developing lung cancer. This is a huge milestone as your chances of developing lung cancer and dying from it are roughly cut in half compared to a smoker.

After 20 years: Your risk of death from smoking is “normal.” At this point, your risk of death from smoking-related causes drops to the level of someone who never lit up—amazing!

My Takeaway 

If you count yourself among those who have quit, bravo. But please don’t stop there.

The research is clear that if you follow a healthy diet, lead an active lifestyle, maintain a healthy weight, and limit alcohol intake, you can go a long way to reducing your risk of early death from virtually any cause, not to mention enjoy a better quality of life. That’s a goal I think we can all agree on.

  1. https://dceg.cancer.gov/research/who-we-study/nih-aarp-diet-health-study 
  2. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/fullarticle/2796614?utm_source=For_The_Media&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=ftm_links&utm_term=092222 
  3. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/317956#timeline