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How Quitting Smoking Changes Your Body For Good

posted on 6/16/2016 Facebook Facebook

The tobacco epidemic is one of the biggest public health threats the world has ever faced, killing around 6 million people a year. More than 5 million of those deaths are the result of direct tobacco use while more than 600 000 are the result of non-smokers being exposed to second-hand smoke. We are all aware of the many health problems that can be caused by tobacco use—cardiovascular problems, cancer, lung diseases, blindness etc. The statistics are particularly grim for cancer where smoking accounts for more than 1 in 4 cancer deaths. However, did you know that smoking is in fact, the most important preventable cause of cancer in the world? 

As any smoker will attest, giving up on smoking is not easy. Kicking a long-term habit does not happen overnight and in fact, it takes several attempts before a smoker is able to give up on the butt for good. But with the commitment and will it takes to kick the habit, smokers can easily argue, “Why should I give up smoking after all these years? With the damage it has already caused, will quitting be any real benefit?”

This may surprise you, but it takes not more than 20 minutes for your body to start experiencing a number of benefits after you stub the last cigarette.  Studies have shown that people who give up on smoking can reduce the risk of dying from a smoking related disease by half. Here’s a roundup on the time frame how that last puff changes your body:

Short Term Benefits
20 minutes: Less than 20 minutes of your decision of quitting, your body already starts to appreciate this decision by lowering your pulse rate, blood pressure and improves circulation to your hands and feet.

8 hours: Your blood has begun to recover from the effects of nicotine reducing its levels to as low as 6.25% as compared to a whopping 93 % on a regular smoking day.

12 hours: Carbon monoxide, which is released as a part of burning tobacco can bind to blood cells and reduce their capacity to carry oxygen throughout the body. In just 12 hours after you quit smoking, the levels of carbon monoxide drop in your body thereby improving your blood oxygen levels.

24 hours: Believe it or not, but just one day after your resolution to give up on all those cigarettes, you have already reduced your risk of heart attack and other cardiovascular problems by almost 40%.

48 hours: Not life threatening or self-limiting, but deadened senses, especially taste and smell is one of the outcomes of regular smoking. But, two days in a row without a puff and your nerve endings have started to regrow returning back your ability to taste and smell.

2 to 8 weeks: By this time, all the residual nicotine will have left your body and you may encounter withdrawal symptoms like headaches, nausea, cramps, anxiety, and irritability. But, the good part is that your circulation has improved dramatically in addition to enhanced lung function and better stamina.

3 to 9 months: Compared to when you were smoking, your lung function has improved by about 10 percent and your lungs have begun to repair themselves. Your phlegm production has decreased and so is your coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath. This reduces the risk of both infection and inflammation.

Long Term Benefits
1 year: So you’ve already been nicotine free for a year already! Hurray! Imagine how happy your body must be. Once you’ve marked a year without a smoke, you are at 50% lower risk of developing cardiovascular diseases.

5 years: Your risk of suffering from a stroke, lung, mouth or esophagus cancer has decreased by half as compared to a smoker. 

15 years: Your body has completely healed from all the ill effects of smoking bringing your risk of several diseases to the same level as those of non-smoker.

With such an elaborate and astonishing list of benefits, do you think you should still be smoking, only because you’re too weak to quit? Make the commitment today, and stash that packet of cigarettes in the bin. 

References:
1. Samet JM. The health benefits of smoking cessation. Med Clin North Am. 1992 Mar;76(2):399-414. Review. PubMed PMID: 1548968.
2. Frank, E. (1993). Benefits of Stopping Smoking. Western Journal of Medicine, 159(1), 83–86.
3. Taylor, D. H., Hasselblad, V., Henley, S. J., Thun, M. J., & Sloan, F. A. (2002). Benefits of Smoking Cessation for Longevity. American Journal of Public Health, 92(6), 990–996.
4. Wu J, Sin DD. Improved patient outcome with smoking cessation: when is it too late? Int J Chron Obstruct Pulmon Dis. 2011;6:259-67. doi: 10.2147/COPD.S10771. Epub 2011 May 2. Review. PubMed PMID: 21814462; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3144846.
5. Kohata Y, Fujiwara Y, Watanabe T, Kobayashi M, Takemoto Y, Kamata N, Yamagami H, Tanigawa T, Shiba M, Watanabe T, Tominaga K, Shuto T, Arakawa T. Long-Term Benefits of Smoking Cessation on Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease and Health-Related Quality of Life. PLoS One. 2016 Feb 4;11(2):e0147860. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0147860. eCollection 2016. Erratum in: PLoS One. 2016;11(3):e0150554. PubMed PMID: 26845761; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4742243.

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