Categorized | Health

Arteries improve after smokers quit, study finds

Quitting smoking can turn back time.

A year after kicking the habit, smokers’ arteries showed signs of reversing a problem that can set the stage for heart disease, according to the first big study to test this.

The improvement came even though smokers gained an average of 9 pounds after they quit, researchers found. Their levels of so-called good cholesterol improved, too.

The new research shows these people gain a health benefit even though they pick up pounds that hopefully can be shed once they’ve gotten used to not smoking, he said.

Smoking is one of the top causes of heart disease, and about one third of smoking-related deaths in the U.S. are due to heart disease. A heart attack often motivates longtime smokers to give it up.

Quitting is known to lower the risk of developing or dying of lung cancer. This is the first major clinical trial to show it quickly improves artery health.

In the study, 1,500 smokers were given one of five methods to help them quit — nicotine patches; nicotine lozenges; the drug bupropion, sold as Wellbutrin and Zyban; or a combination of patches and lozenges or the drug and lozenges. A sixth group received a dummy treatment.

After one year, 36 percent had quit, and it made no difference which method they used, Stein said.

Before the study started and one year after smokers quit, doctors did ultrasound tests to see how well blood vessel linings relaxed and handled blood flow. Hardening of the arteries is an early step to heart disease. Using a tourniquet, they stopped blood flow in the forearm for a few minutes, then measured how a major artery responded when the flow was restored.

London-based GlaxoSmithKline PLC provided smoking cessation medicines for that part of the study, and several authors have research funding from the company. Federal government grants paid for the artery study. — AP

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