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Older smokers who quit can see health benefits within five years, according to a new study. The study of 8,807 people ages 50 to 74 found a person can reduce their risk of heart attack and stroke by more than 40 percent within the first five years after they stop smoking.

The results of the study suggest smoking cessation programs, many of which are designed for younger people, should be expanded to attract older people, The Huffington Post reports.

“We were able to show that the risk of smokers for cardiovascular diseases is more than twice that of non-smokers,” Professor Hermann Brenner of the German Cancer Research Center said in a news release. “However, former smokers are affected at almost the same low rate as people of the same age who never smoked. Moreover, smokers are affected at a significantly younger age than individuals who have never smoked or have stopped smoking.”

The study appears in the European Journal of Epidemiology.

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