The benefits of quitting smoking
Smoking has been linked to a number of negative side effects, including raising smokers’ risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease. Quitting smoking can greatly reduce the likelihood of both of those outcomes, but the additional benefits of kicking tobacco to the curb may surprise smokers. According to the American Lung Association, smokers’ heart rates drop to normal levels within 20 minutes of quitting smoking. While not all side effects of quitting smoking are so immediate, many are just as impactful.
The health benefits of quitting smoking are seemingly endless. The Office of the U.S. Surgeon General says quitting smoking is the single most important step smokers can take to improve the length and quality of their lives. The health benefits of quitting smoking are too numerous to list them all, but the following are some of the ways that quitting can improve smokers’ overall health.
● Quitting benefits blood pressure. Smokers’ blood pressure levels can return to normal levels within two hours of quitting. Smokers may also notice their fingers and toes starting to feel warm shortly after they quit. That sensation occurs because quitting smoking also improves circulation.
● Quitting decreases levels of carbon monoxide in the body. When smoked, lit cigarettes release carbon monoxide, which compromises smokers’ ability to absorb oxygen into the bloodstream. That makes it difficult for red blood cells to carry oxygen. Body tissue that does not receive an adequate supply of oxygen can cease to function. But according to the American Heart Association, after 12 hours of smoke-free living, the carbon monoxide levels in smokers’ blood return to normal.
● Quitting reduces risk of stroke. Stroke is another of the myriad of cardiovascular diseases that has a connection to smoking. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, stroke occurs when the blood supply to the brain is blocked or when blood vessels in the brain burst and cause brain tissue to die. Smoking increases the buildup of plaque in blood vessels, which can block blood from getting to the brain. Smoking also causes blood vessels to thicken and narrow, again compromising the body’s ability to get blood to the brain. Within five to 15 years of quitting smoking, smokers’ risk of having a stroke is the same as that of nonsmokers.
● Quitting can make it easier to exercise. Many smokers experience shortness of breath, which can make it difficult to commit to the kind of exercise that promotes short- and long-term health. Smoking damages the cilia, which are tiny structures that push mucus out of the lungs. Cilia damaged by smoking begin to repair within one month of quitting smoking, resulting in fewer coughing fits and instances of shortness of breath. Smokers interested in quitting can visit www.smokefree.gov for more information and support.