Health Benefits of Giving Up Cigarettes
February 10, 2013  |  Blog

Quitting smoking is obviously beneficial to your health. But what exactly is it that happens? A smoker inhales thousands of chemicals when they have a cigarette. Ammonia, acetone, formaldehyde, and arsenic are some, things not normally welcome in the human body. Tar in the smoke inhaled is deposited onto the lungs, which causes emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and lung cancer. In addition, cigarettes contain over 40 carcinogens, and they aren’t just limited to lung cancer, either; cigarettes have been linked to larynx, esophagus, mouth, kidney, stomach, bladder, and throat cancer. Smoking also causes heart diseases like high blood pressure, heart failure, and blockage of blood vessels. Stroke is also common. All in all, 1 in 2 lifelong smokers will die from complications due to cigarettes. And even if no life-threatening ailments come about, there’s always loss of taste buds, shortness of breath, chronic cough, nerve damage (which may lead to amputation), and the woes of addiction. That’s a whole lot of depressing information. Many smokers chose to ignore it, or don’t know it at all. But some are scared straight, for the benefit of themselves and the people around them, and quit. And then what? The effects of quitting are almost immediate. 20 minutes after the last cigarette, your heart rate starts decreasing to its normal speed (nicotine is a vasoconstrictor, shrinking the size of your veins). Within a few hours, the level of carbon monoxide in the blood starts to decrease, increasing the amount of oxygen. After a day, risk of heart attack starts to decrease. 48 hours marks the beginning of regaining nerve endings lost to oxygen deprivation and taste and smell start to recover. In two to three weeks, withdrawal symptoms usually begin to cease. Incessant coughing sometimes characterized by smokers will also stop, as a smoker’s body produces more phlegm than a non-smoker, and has less cilia to clean it up.

After a month that someone give up cigarettes, the lungs start to rebuild. The cilia in your lungs, which had been coated in tar, begin their normal function, filtering the air you breathe. A year after, your chance of a smoking-related heart attack are cut in half. In five to fifteen years, your chances of stroke return to that of someone who doesn’t smoke. And after ten years, your risk of cancer is halved. So there is hope. And of course, the earlier you quit, the better. Stopping before 30 reduces risk by 90%, by age 50, 50%. But there are some negative, albeit temporary, changes that may happen after quitting. Especially for longtime smokers, cigarettes affect the body in many ways. And so quitting, especially when going cold turkey, may cause turbulence. There are digestive system changes, like acid reflux, gas, and constipation (nicotine is a stimulant, which includes the gastrointestinal tract. Once you quit,the body, adjusting to changes, often becomes constipated). Respiratory issues like sinus congestion and coughing occur due to the regenerating throat clearing itself out. Insomnia and vivid dreams and nightmares are also common. Interestingly, this is because you are no longer covering up anxiety and problems with smoking; dreams are a means for the subconscious to sort out your issues. Despite a couple uncomfortable adjustments, what happens after you quit smoking is your quality of life improves. You’re able to do more, because of health improvements and longer life. And the sooner you quit, the better your chances are. There aren’t many things in life that give you a second chance, but when you are, grab it. And do yourself a favor, and don’t light up again.

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