Quitting smoking: immediate and long term benefits

Any smoker can be the 1,300,001st to quit this year

Here’s good news: each year, roughly 1.3 million smokers quit. Anyone can do it with the proper assistance and attitude. According to US News Health, nearly half of all adults who have ever smoked have quit since 1965.

“Quitting smoking can be a challenge, but the benefits are worth it. Many of the diseases treated in our community are in some way related to tobacco use. If you are a smoker, the best thing you can do, is quit,” said Rob Williamson, RN, BSN, CRN, CTTS, Pulmonary Care Management Consultant and Certified Tobacco Treatment Specialist with the Genesis HealthCare System.

Simply put, quitting smoking always improves health, no matter how old you are or how long you smoked. According to the National Institute on Aging, quitting smoking will likely extend a former smoker’s life by years and provide easier breathing, increased energy and even improved financial resources. Former smokers will also have a lower risk of cancer, heart attack, stroke and lung disease; better blood circulation; improved sense of taste and smell and will set a healthy example for children and grandchildren.

Fortunately, according to the American Cancer Society and Medical News Today, the physical benefits of tobacco cessation begin almost immediately. A former smoker can expect to experience the following improvements, 20 minutes to 20 years after the last cigarette is smoked:

Twenty minutes: Blood pressure drops, and circulation improves.

One day: The risk of heart attack begins to decrease.

Two days: The former smoker may notice a heightened sense of smell and more vivid tastes.

One month: Lung function begins to improve. As the lungs heal and lung capacity improves, former smokers may notice less coughing and shortness of breath. Athletic endurance increases.

Three months: For the next several months after quitting, circulation continues to improve.

Nine months: The lungs have significantly healed themselves.

One year: The risk for coronary heart disease decreases by half and will continue to drop.

Five years: The body has healed itself enough for the arteries and blood vessels to begin to widen again, lowering the risk of stroke.

Ten years: The chance of developing lung cancer and dying from it are roughly cut in half, and the likelihood of developing mouth, throat, or pancreatic cancer has significantly reduced.

Fifteen years: The likelihood of developing coronary heart disease equals a non-smoker.

Twenty years: The risk of death from smoking-related causes, including both lung disease and cancer, drops to nearly the level of a person who has never smoked.

Quitting smoking lowers the risk of several cancers over time, including cancers of the stomach, liver, cervix, colon, rectum and acute myeloid leukemia (AML). Quitting also lowers the risk of diabetes and improves blood vessel function.

There are proven methods to help you quit smoking. Smoking cessation products from a pharmacy can deter nicotine withdrawal. “When you combine counseling with one or more stop smoking products, your chances of successfully quitting are even better,” said Williamson. Smokers have the best chance of quitting permanently when they seek counseling through a Certified Tobacco Cessation Specialist in combination with pharmacological support provided by a primary care provider. “Those ready to quit should talk to their doctor,” said Williamson.

Quitting smoking takes effort, but help is available, and the benefits start almost immediately.