In follow up to our article of last week in which we discussed the enormous impact of secondhand smoke on children, we want to again encourage smokers to quit by illustrating how quickly health benefits begin when you stop smoking. According to the American Heart Association, you become healthier the very day you quit.
The toll that smoking takes on your health is heavy – it clogs your arteries, fills your lungs with tar, weakens your bones, increases joint inflammation, lowers your immunity and thickens your blood. Smoking also puts harmful chemicals like benzene, arsenic and formaldehyde into your bloodstream, increases your blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and causes your heart to pump harder and faster than normal. But if you stop smoking, your body begins to repair itself immediately.
Within 20 minutes to 1 hour– your heart rate and blood pressure begin to drop and quickly revert to a completely normal range.
Within 8 hours – you will have halfthe amount of nicotine and carbon monoxide in your blood which allows your oxygen levels to return to normal.
Within 24 hours– you have lowered your risk of heart attack considerably.
Within 48 hours– the nerve endings in your mouth and nose damaged by smoke begin to heal allowing your senses of taste and smell to sharpen. The nicotine in your body will be completely gone and the smoking-related mucus in your lungs will be clearing.
Within 3 days– your breathing will have notably improved and you will have much more energy.
2 weeks to 3 months– your lungs will be as much as 30% stronger and your blood flow will have improved notably. You will not get as winded when you are active and your risk of a heart attack has dropped even further. At this point, you will also have moved past the most difficult part of withdrawal.
3 to 9 months– you will likely begin coughing in a helpful way because your lungs are working to clear themselves, and your immune system will be much more robust meaning you will be less susceptible to illness.
1 year– your risk of heart disease is now half what it was when you smoked.
5 years– your chances of a stroke are reduced to those of a nonsmoker and you are exactly half as likely to get cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus or bladder as when you smoked.
10 years– you are now half as likely to die from lung cancer as when you smoked and your chances of cancer of the voice box and pancreas are reduced by 80%.
15 years– your body has healed itself to the point that your chances of heart disease are exactly the same as if you had never smoked.
To ensure your efforts to quit are successful and that you begin to experience these dramatic and immediate health improvements:
Identify your best reason to quit – you will need a powerful, personal reason to quit such as protecting your family from secondhand smoke, lowering your chances of getting cancer or to look and feel younger.
Prepare before you quit – smoking is an addiction to a substance so you will experience withdrawal. Establish a support system consisting of your physician, your family, classes, medication and/or counseling so you have an infrastructure in place to help you succeed.
Explore medical treatments– talk to your doctor about nicotine replacement therapy and/or prescription medications that can help curb cravings and ease withdrawal symptoms such as depression and an inability to concentrate.
Avoid triggers– be aware that anything you customarily did while smoking (drinking coffee or cocktails) or after which you had a cigarette (following meals for example) will trigger cravings so change your behavior accordingly and find something else to take the place of a cigarette during those times.
Clean house– remove ashtrays and lighters from your home, wash anything that smells like smoke and clean your carpets, draperies and upholstery as well as your car.
To learn more about the immediate health benefits of stopping smoking, log on to vascularhealthclinics.org.