It's never too late to break your addiction to nicotine, no matter how old you are or how many cigarettes you smoke a day. The fact remains, smoking puts you at risk of contracting serious, longstanding illnesses and diseases and quitting full stop offers an opportunity to improve your prospects. Health effects can be seen almost immediately, in as short as 8 hours.
Although quitting is easier said than done, its worth remembering that the benefits of staying smoke-free greatly outweigh the financial cost and health implications from which you are likely to suffer.
Here we touch on the range of positive changes a smoker can expect when quitting, and shown below is a timeline that indicates how quickly those benefits can be seen.
|Health Changes After Quitting Smoking|
|Time since quitting||Health change that take place|
|20 minutes||Blood pressure and pulse rate return to normal.|
|8 hours||Nicotine and carbon monoxide levels in bloods reduce by half.|
|10 hours||Oxygen levels return to normal.|
|16 hours||Circulation improves.|
|24 hours||Carbon monoxide and nicotine no longer remain in the system.|
|48 hours||Sense of taste and smell improves.|
|72 hours||Breathing becomes easier as bronchial tubes begin to relax.|
|1 month||Skin texture and colour improves.|
|3-9 months||Coughing and wheezing becomes less frequent.|
|1 year||Risk of heart attack reduces by half compared to that of a smoker.|
|10 years||Risk of lung cancer drops to half compared to that of a smoker.|
|15 years||Risk of heart attack is equal to someone who has never smoked.|
|Source: ASH, Stopping smoking: the benefits and aids to quitting|
When you eliminate nicotine from the body, bloodflow runs smoother, which improves sensitivity. This can help enhance sexual functioning, improve a man's erection strength and make a woman achieve orgasm easier than before.
Studies have shown that quitting smoking can increase a couple's chances of conceiving. This is due to changes that happen in the womb and improved mobility of sperm. Quitting also boosts the success rate of IVF treatment and lowers the risk of a miscarriage.
It has now been established that stopping smoking prevents premature ageing by delaying the onset of fine lines and wrinkles. A non-smoker receives a more substantial level of daily nutrients, the most important of those being oxygen, which is essential for reversing the signs of ageing that is seen in smokers.
When you lower your nicotine intake you are working to reduce the likelihood of dental health. Gum disease and losing teeth prematurely are two issues that pose a greater threat to smokers. In fact, dental health improves all-round for quitters, from whiter teeth to fresher breath.
It's a fact that lung capacity improves, on average, by up to 10% within 9 months after quitting smoking. When the lungs function at a healthy rate, breathing becomes easier and coughing is not as persistent as before.
Breathing problems may not trouble a healthy adult under the age of 30 under normal circumstances but will begin to show during exercise or activities that put a strain on internal organs, even walking up a set of stairs. Because lung capacity gets worse with age, it's important to rid nicotine from your body before wheezing, coughing and further respiratory problems become part of your everyday life.
Contrary to the belief that smoking is a stress-buster, medical evidence suggests that stress levels drop significantly when a person gives up for good. It's actually nicotine that induces stress by producing a withdrawal sensation between one cigarette and the next. Hence, the pleasure gained from a nicotine fix is merely a temporary cure that fuels a long-term habit.
Due to the newly increased levels of oxygen in the body, an ex-smoker has greater circulation in all areas of the body. This change happens after 2-12 weeks of giving up. During and after this period the immune system strengthens and fatigue takes longer to set in. This essentially initiates the end of common health hurdles, from niggling headaches to symptoms of cold and flu.
With commitment and willpower the decision to leave a life of nicotine behind will pay off indefinitely, for you and your loved ones. Giving up at 30 is as good as adding 10 years to your life, even quitting at 60 means you will live for 3 further years. Despite the warning signs many people choose not to take action and face a 50-50 chance of dying from a smoking related disease, such as cancer and emphysema.
Changing your lifestyle has a direct impact on the people you care for. Second-hand smoke is responsible for a number of nasty infections and illnesses, and raises the risk of asthma, pneumonia, bronchitis and lung cancer in children and young adults.
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