Every day, we see, hear, and speak about the many ways we can improve our lives and, especially, our health. But if you smoke, quitting right now is the best thing you can do because the health benefits are immediate and substantial. The following are some of the benefits you may experience after you quit smoking:
Heart Health: Within 20 minutes of quitting, your heart rate decreases. Two weeks to three months after quitting, your risk of heart attack goes down, and within one year your risk of coronary heart disease is reduced by half to that of a nonsmoker.
Lung Health: By quitting now, you might experience less shortness of breath during everyday activities in as little as two weeks. After 10 years, your risk of lung cancer is reduced by half of that of a smoker.
Circulatory Health: Cigarettes contain carbon monoxide (CO), which is the same poisonous chemical found in your car’s exhaust fumes. This chemical builds up in the bloodstream and contributes to a lack of oxygen which makes the heart work harder. Within 12 hours of quitting smoking, CO levels in your blood drop to normal.
Lower Risk of Diabetes: Quitting can reduce your risk of diabetes and help you keep your blood sugar levels more in control.
Longevity: Quitting increases your life expectancy by four to 10 years, depending on your age at the time you quit.
Stronger Immunity: Smoking exposes your body to many harmful chemicals, including tar and nicotine. As a result, your immune system works hard to defend the body against these poisons. Once your body is no longer bombarded by these chemicals, the immune system can begin functioning more normally.
Healthier Smile: Tobacco can wreak havoc on your mouth, causing cavities, sores, and gum disease, as well as yellowing teeth. Quitting not only improves your oral health, it might even lead to a brighter smile.
Improved Senses: Within 48 hours, your sense of smell and taste begins returning to normal.
Healthier Skin: Quitting can protect your skin from premature aging and wrinkling.
Healthier Loved Ones: Quitting smoking is not only about your health. It also affects the health of the people you love, even your pets. By quitting, you no longer expose them to the life-threatening, cancer-causing chemicals in secondhand smoke.
The good news? If you are looking to change your lifestyle, beginning the conversation with your healthcare provider can be a great first step to figure out a plan to quit smoking. In fact, counseling and medication can double your chances of quitting smoking successfully.
Getting on the right plan does not mean you gain these health benefits. It is important to discover a smoking cessation plan that’s right for you. While some people may use e-cigarettes, you should remember these are not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as a quit-smoking aid, and the long-term effects of e-cigarette use are unknown.
There are a number of effective online tools and resources that can help support a quit attempt. Quitter's Circle, developed by the American Lung Association and Pfizer, enables quitters to develop a quit plan, form support networks with their friends and family and connect with a healthcare provider for support—all of which can help increase the chances of quitting smoking.
Chetna Bhattacharyya, MD, is a Senior Medical Director at Pfizer
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After reading this article, how likely are you to speak with your healthcare professional or someone you know about the health benefits of quitting smoking?