The Health Benefits of Giving Up Smoking (The Full Article)

It is never too late to give up smoking. The sooner you can free your body from the constant punishment of smoking then the sooner it can recover from years of abuse. The body has amazing recuperative powers. Once you stop smoking, your body will show some immediate improvement as it adjusts to no longer having to accommodate smoking and its effects. The longer you have smoked, the more the body will have to overcome to return to a more natural, healthier state. To give you a better idea of how your system gradually recovers from smoking, the American Cancer Society has outlined these changes in a timeline. While the timeline may be different for different people, just as some people are naturally healthier to begin with, the fact remains that your body will be better off once you quit smoking. Only 20 minutes after your very last cigarette your body will begin to return to normal. Both your blood pressure and your pulse rate will have stabilised at a more natural level. As your circulation improves, the temperature in your hands and feet increases to a normal level as the arteries recover. About 8 hours after you have stopped smoking, the carbon monoxide level in your blood drops as the amount of oxygen carried throughout the body increases. Smoking hinders both brain and muscle functions by reducing the amount of oxygen available to inadequate levels. The levels of carbon monoxide will now be reduced to a level about 50% of what they used to be when you smoked. Another benefit, probably more noticeable to people other than the ex-smoker themselves, is that "smoker's breath" becomes less pronounced. After 24 hours you begin to see some of the long-term benefits. Not only is your body now functioning more efficiently, the chances of enjoying your improved health are also increased. Not smoking for a day is all it takes to reduce your statistical chances of suffering a heart attack and improve your chances of surviving one. It also takes about 24 hours for the last of the extra carbon monoxide from smoking to be eliminated from your body. About 48 hours after you have stopped smoking you will probably notice that your senses of taste and smell have become much keener compared to their previously dulled state. Excess mucus and toxic debris that has collected over time will begin to be cleared from the lungs. Although there will initially be an increase in the amount of mucus dislodged from the lungs, breathing will gradually become easier. Amazingly, those nerve endings that were damaged by the smoking habit will begin to regenerate once you quit. After 72 hours of not smoking, your bronchial tubes become more relaxed and less constricted, making it easier to breathe. The risk of thrombosis is reduced as the blood's clotting agents return to normal. Some 2 weeks to 3 months into the non-smoking recovery your lung capacity will have increased by up to 30%. In combination with improved circulation, this means that you will find it easier to engage in physical exercise. In a period from 1 month to 9 months after you have ceased smoking many of the noticeable adverse symptoms of smoking will have improved. You will experience less coughing, wheezing, sinus congestion and shortness of breath. The fatigue associated with these symptoms will decrease as your overall energy levels continue to rise. As the microscopic, hairlike cilia regrow, they increase the lung's ability to purify the air by once again filtering out impurities and clearing mucus. This also reduces the chances of developing an infection, especially in the sinuses. One year without smoking will mean that the excess risk of coronary heart disease is now approximately half that of a smoker. After 2 years the risk of a heart attack drops to a more normal level. After 5 years of staying smoke-free the average smoker who smoked one pack of cigarettes a day will have decreased their lung cancer death rate by almost a half. The risk of developing cancer of the mouth, throat or oesophagus will now be half that of a smoker. Abstaining from smoking for between 5 to 15 years will mean that you have reduced your risk of having a stroke to the equivalent of a non-smoker. Approximately 10 years after you stopped smoking, your lung cancer death rate will now be equivalent to that of a non-smoker. The risk of developing other cancers, such as cancer of the kidneys, pancreas or bladder, is decreased. Healthy cells gradually replace pre-cancerous cells in the body. After you have refrained from smoking for 15 years, your risk of developing coronary heart disease will be the same as that of a life-long non-smoker. These are only some of the physical improvements that you will experience when you quit smoking. Obviously, the longer and heavier your smoking habit was, the longer it will take for your body to recover. This does not even touch on the social, psychological, and emotional positives that come for giving up smoking. Quitting smoking at any time in one's life is beneficial. Some people wait until they are ordered to do so by their doctor or surgeon but even the recuperative capacity of the body has its limits. You are much better advised to quit smoking before you develop any serious health problems. Generally speaking, giving up smoking makes your body healthier and increases the chances that you will stay that way.