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Smokers Likelier to Change Habits After Health Scare: Study

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Health scares convince many smokers to kick the habit but do little to push overweight and obese people to lose weight, according to U.S. researchers.

Their analysis of data from 20,221 overweight or obese people under age 75 and about 7,764 smokers showed that smokers are three times more likely to quit if they suffer a heart attack or stroke or are diagnosed with lung disease or cancer, The New York Times reported.

But overweight and obese people diagnosed with a serious condition such as heart disease or diabetes lose only two to three pounds, said the study published Monday in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine.

The researchers said they're not sure why health scares push smokers to change their ways but have little effect on overweight and obese patients. They did note that many health plans don't cover weight-loss programs (other than bariatric surgery), while free or low-cost smoking cessation programs are offered by many local health departments and businesses, the Times reported.

"People really are open to changing their behaviors after a health event, and this could really be a window of opportunity," study author Patricia S. Keenan, assistant professor of health policy at the Yale University School of Medicine, told the newspaper. "I'm not sure the health care system is capitalizing on it, in terms of giving people the support they need to make these changes as they go forward."

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