Tens of millions of Americans have quit smoking cigarettes. The benefits of quitting — no matter what your age — are prodigious. Risks of heart disease and stroke plummet. So does the risk of lung cancer, along with cancers of the mouth, throat, bladder, cervix and pancreas. But can the damage from smoking ever be completely undone?
The human body has an astonishing and miraculous ability to heal itself. A look at ex-smokers is all you need to prove this point. The very minute you drops off cigarettes, your body system begins the healing process.
If you are feeling nervous, quick-tempered, weary and coughing a lot, just know that you are experiencing the symptoms of recovery from nicotine addiction. These symptoms are the result of your body clearing itself of nicotine, a powerful and highly addictive substance. In most cases, your body is rid of nicotine within 2-3 days unless you are using Nicotine Replacement Therapy. Paradoxically, people find that they cough a lot more right after they stop smoking, but that's natural. That's the lungs cleaning themselves out.
The immediate benefits of smoking cessation include lowered blood pressure and heart rate. According to the Palo Alto Medical Foundation, within 24 hours of quitting, you have already decreased your risk of a heart attack. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates that within a year of quitting your risk of heart disease falls to 1/2 that of a smoker’s risk. Quitting smoking will not get rid of the fatty deposits that are already there. But it will lower the levels of cholesterol and fats circulating in your blood, which will help to slow the buildup of new fatty deposits in your arteries.
Within 72 hours after cessation, your bronchial tubes begin to relax, and air flows more easily into and out of your lungs. Within three months of stopping smoking, the lung’s ability to inhale and exhale is greatly improved while the small hair-like cilia in the lungs get better at moving mucus and cleaning the lungs after one smoking-free year. Health challenges such as shortness of breath and coughing also become a rarity after a year of not smoking.
Quitting smoking can re-wire your brain and help break the cycle of addiction. The large number of nicotine receptors in your brain will return to normal levels after about a month of being quit.
If you’re a woman, your estrogen levels will gradually return to normal after you quit smoking. And if you hope to have children someday, quitting smoking right now will increase your chances of a healthy pregnancy in the future. For men, if you quit smoking now, you can lower your chances of erectile dysfunction and improve your chances of having a healthy sexual life.
Quitting smoking will keep your hearing sharp. Remember, even mild hearing loss can cause problems (like not hearing directions correctly and doing a task wrong).Quitting smoking will improve your night vision and help preserve your overall vision by stopping the damage that smoking does to your eyes. Nobody likes a dirty mouth. After a few days without cigarettes, your smile will be brighter. Quitting smoking now will keep your mouth healthy for years to come. Quitting smoking is better than anti-aging lotion. Quitting can help clear up blemishes and protect your skin from premature aging and wrinkling.
The harm smoking inflicts on the skin seems superficial compared to heart disease or lung cancer, but it is usually the first - and most visible - damage caused by the addiction. When smoking, the brain diverts vitamins away from your skin to be used elsewhere. Nicotine also reduces blood flow to the lower living layer of skin, or dermis, which results in less oxygen being delivered. Skin becomes sallow and the regularity and quality of cell production deteriorate, leading to dry, flaky skin that is less resilient to external stresses. Over time the skin sags and wrinkles because the body cannot produce collagen effectively. Smoke saps the body of Vitamin C - a key component in the manufacturing of collagen - and disturbs the production of an enzyme called matrix metalloproteinase. Within six weeks of smoking cessation the skin will be visibly benefiting from increased oxygen and antioxidant levels
Quitting smoking will help increase the availability of oxygen in your blood, and your muscles will become stronger and healthier. Quitting smoking can reduce your risk of fractures, both now and later in life. Keep your bones strong and healthy by quitting now.
Stroke risk can fall to that of a non-smoker after 2-5 years.
One question on the lips of ex- smokers is: “do lungs heal after quitting smoking?”
If you've been smoking a long time and have developed COPD [(or, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)], which includes chronic bronchitis or emphysema, the lungs never totally heal. Chronic bronchitis is an inflammation of the airway. Some of that inflammation can be reversed. But if the inflammation has led to scarring of the walls of the airway, some of that cannot. Emphysema is a disease in which the walls of the fine air sacs of the lung — the place where the lung does its business of exchanging oxygen for carbon dioxide — break down. So tiny little air sacs become bigger ones — and they're less efficient in transporting oxygen. The lung can't grow new walls for these air sacs. The lung loses tiny blood vessels and can't grow new ones. So that's permanent. But remember this, Quitting smoking is the only way for COPD sufferers to prolong their lives!
A Lung Health Study bankrolled by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) claimed that women’s lung function improved twice as much as men’s during the first year after stopping smoking. Previously, LHS researchers made available results indicating that both sexes profit from quit smoking but this new study proves that women benefit more than men as their lung function improved speedily after one smoking-free year. The results can be found in the June 1 issue of the American Journal of Epidemiology.
Smoking impairs circulation and the production and function of blood cells. Tar builds up in your vascular system blocking blood flow, a condition called atherosclerosis. In addition, smoking decreases blood cell production so that you have fewer cells to carry oxygen to your body tissues and remove carbon dioxide and toxins. Smoking starves the organs, including the heart, of the oxygen required to function, resulting in damaged tissues and impaired repair of damaged tissues. Fortunately, according to PAMF, within three weeks of quitting, circulation improves. Oxygen-rich blood once again begins to reach your heart and repair the tissue damaged by cigarettes.
10 years after smoking cessation, a U.S. Surgeon General’s report reveals that the danger of lung cancer plunges to less than half that of a smoker.
Aside the brain, the lungs are the most fragile organs in the human body. By design, our lungs are packed with miniature passage ways and air compartments. Each time you breathe in, fresh air containing oxygen, is dragged into the miniature chambers in your lungs. From there, the oxygen moves to the red blood corpuscles where it is substituted for carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide is then passed out from your system as you breathe out.
This breathing in and out process takes place about 20,000 times each day. For this process to effectively take place, the passage ways in your lungs must always be free of deposits that could block the small passage ways and obstruct the oxygen/carbon dioxide flow. To keep the chambers clean, your lungs have tiny, hair-like structures that line up the airways called cilia. Healthy cilia clean the lungs of mucus and reduce chances for infection. Cigarette smoking literally paralyzes the cilia each time you smoke and pollutants and toxins are dragged into the lungs.
As you continue to smoke, many of the short cilia are killed off, making the cleaning process even more complex. Over time, toxins from cigarette smoke begin to block the tiny air chambers called alveoli. In patients with COPD, because the cilia can no longer function optimally, your body takes to coughing as a way of supporting the cilia to clear your lungs.
Apart from smoking cessation, no other treatments have been uncovered to advance lung function. Even though studies have shown that lung function may improve by one year in ex- smokers with mild lung disease, those with severe lung disease may just experience a reduction in their symptoms.
Will My Lungs Repair Themselves? Yes. As with anything that is abused, your body can cure itself once it’s given the opportunity. And that includes your lungs! Cigarette smoking is just like a germ, you’re sick and coughing and you’ve got really bad flu. But if we take that germ out with the right drug, the lungs are able to repair themselves.
With time, this repair process will go on. But, your lungs may never be as efficient as they were before you started smoking. The ability of lungs to recover from the impact of smoking depends largely upon the number of years smokers subject their lungs to the addiction. But experts say the health of lungs begins to improve the very moment smokers drop their last cigarettes.
This simply means the longer you smoke, the more damage you cause your lungs, and at some point, that damage becomes unalterable. Quitting smoking now will significantly lessen your chances of any lung problems in the near or distant future.
After five years from the date of cessation, a person’s risk of dying from lung cancer decreases to almost the level of a person who never smoked, according to PAMF. If you already have cancer, quitting improves the effects of treatments and the chances of recovery. Quitting also lowers the risk of developing a second cancer. We calculate that the risk for being diagnosed with lung cancer probably returns to that of a nonsmoker somewhere between 10 and 15 years after smoking cessation. 5 years after quitting the risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, and bladder are cut in half. Cervical cancer risk falls to that of a non-smoker. 10 years after quitting, the risk of cancer of the larynx (voice box) and pancreas decreases.
15 years after quitting the risk of coronary heart disease is that of a non-smoker’s.
We now know that smoking causes type 2 diabetes. In fact, smokers are 30–40% more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than nonsmokers. And people with diabetes who smoke are more likely than nonsmokers to have trouble with insulin dosing and with controlling their disease. Quitting smoking will reduce your belly fat and lower your risk of diabetes. If you already have diabetes, quitting can help you keep your blood sugar levels in check.
Quitting while you are younger will reduce your health risks more, but quitting at any age can give back years of life that would be lost by continuing to smoke.
The risk that people have for smoking-related diseases is directly related to the total number of cigarettes they've smoked in their life. We measure that with something we call "pack-years": that's the average number of packs per day multiplied by the number of years they've smoked. The greater the pack-years, the greater the risk. When you're getting up around 50 pack-years and beyond, that's a lot. If people have a lot of pack-years, the risk of, say, lung cancer never goes back down to the risk of a non-smoker.
Of course, the way people react to cigarette smoke varies enormously. Everybody has a 90-year-old uncle who smoked all his life and feels fine. And everybody's got a 45-year-old cousin who's dying of emphysema. These two people have reacted to cigarette smoke differently. It's an important scientific question to understand what the differences are, and we're beginning to work on it. Genetics seem to play a role. Do you feel like gambling?