It is not a surprise that smoking is bad for health. In fact, according to The American Cancer Society, tobacco use is related to nearly 1 in 5 deaths in the United States. Cigarette smoking causes more death than alcohol, car accidents, suicide, homicide, AIDS, and illegal drugs combined. As we all know, tobacco use affects many different systems in the body and can cause various diseases.
The good news is that upon quitting smoking, the body immediately starts seeing health benefits. Not only does it decrease risk for long-term effects and more serious side effects (or death) related to tobacco use, many systems in the body start to see real benefits right away. The timeline below outlines what to expect upon smoking cessation, and how quitting today can increase your overall health tenfold.
20 Minutes After Your Last Cigarette
As quickly as just twenty minutes after the last bit of nicotine enters your bloodstream, the body starts to heal itself and the heart rate will decrease back to normal levels.
1 – 2 Hours
Between 1-2 hours after your last cigarette, blood pressure and heart rate will be close to your regular levels. Another advantage is that your peripheral circulation will start to improve. This type of circulation will benefit your toes and fingers that typically lose oxygenation and circulation due to nicotine. At 1-2 hours after your last cigarette, you will begin to reap the benefits of better circulation.
8 – 12 Hours
Between 8-12 hours after your last cigarette, the blood oxygen levels increase, and the carbon monoxide levels will decrease to normal. Carbon monoxide (CO) is a clear, odorless gas that is produced by burning any carbon-based substance. So when tobacco is burned and inhaled, one of the 4,000 or more chemicals that enter the body is CO. When the smoke is inhaled into the lungs, CO is rapidly absorbed into the blood stream. CO binds to the hemoglobin in the red blood cells 200 times more effectively than oxygen does. The result is that many of these blood cells that were designed to carry oxygen to different parts of the body, instead bind to the CO, forming carboxyhemoglobin (COHb). This means that the heart has to do more work to supply the necessary amount of oxygen to the body. There is good evidence that high levels of carbon monoxide in the blood of smokers is one of the main factors causing smokers to have increased rates of cardiovascular diseases (such as angina and heart attacks). Other factors include platelet aggregation increasing the “stickiness” in the blood, stimulated by oxidant gases in cigarette smoke, and increased myocardial oxygen demand caused by nicotine. But it is clear that the reduced oxygen supply caused by carbon monoxide is a major factor. For example, increasing blood CO levels (either by smoking non-nicotine cigarettes or inhaling CO) has been shown to reduce the amount of exercise required to cause angina (chest pain) in patients with a history of angina.
Heart attack rates for smokers are 70% more than non-smokers. However, just one day without a single puff of tobacco can decrease your risk of having a heart attack significantly. Even though this doesn’t mean the risk is completely eliminated, you are well on your way to better health.
Shortly after the oxygen levels within the blood start returning to normal, the added oxygen helps damaged nerve endings regenerate. The benefits of nerve regeneration include return of normal taste and smell. Longtime smokers don’t know what they are missing until they’re able to get these enhanced senses back!
Typically this is the hardest time for cessation because nicotine is completely out of the system at this point. Many smokers tend to have the highest withdrawal symptoms during this period and may experience physical symptoms such as headache, nausea, or cramps. Beware also of emotional symptoms including (but not limited to) anxiety, tension, and drowsiness.
Between 2 Weeks – 3 Months
You can see vast improvements in circulation at this time mark. Walking and other physical activity become easier as the bronchial tubes relax, and cilia in the lungs start to repair and push mucus out. Cilia are tiny hair-like particles in the lungs that move mucus. Their re-growth will help to fight infection easier and you’ll also have less coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath during this period.
When you hit this benchmark, the risk of heart disease is lowered by 50% compared to when you were still smoking. You are well on your way to a better, longer, healthier life!
While still a large risk prior to the five-year mark, stroke risk decreases significantly when smoke-free for five to fifteen years. Carbon monoxide and other chemicals contribute largely to the damage and narrowing of blood vessels and increased stroke risk for smokers. This risk, after the five-year benchmark, is decreased to someone who doesn’t smoke at all.
Relating to over 90% of lung cancer deaths worldwide, it is obvious that one of the many concerns of smoking is the risk of cancer. Tobacco use is the the most common denominator for lung cancer, and can also contribute to mouth, throat, esophagus, bladder, kidney, and pancreatic cancer as well. However, after ten years of being smoke-free, the risk of dying from lung cancer drops to half of that of a smoker’s. The risk for other cancers also decreases as well.
According to the CDC, 15 years after quitting the risk of heart disease will finally drop to the same level as someone who doesn’t smoke. The risk for heart related conditions such as heart attack, angina, aneurysm, and coronary artery disease are no longer higher-than-normal.
Quit Smoking Today & Live A Longer, Healthier Life
Quitting smoking benefits you long into the future and extends your lifespan overall. By quitting today, you can increase your lifespan by 14 years! Your cardiovascular and pulmonary systems will start to function at a normal rate again and you can live life to the fullest extent.
How To Quit Smoking
- First and foremost you must decide to quit smoking.
- Ask for the support of family, friends and coworkers.
- Have a smoking cessation plan.
- Set a quit date.
- Make your home smoke-free.
- Ask your doctor for assistance.
- Work with me as your health coach. Telemedicine coaching can be very effective.
Quitting isn’t easy, but it certainly can change your life for the better: physically, socially, and financially. Don’t wait; stopping today can help get you moving immediately toward a better future!