February 21, 2011

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School of Medicine Hosting Diversity Programs
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fact4Immediate and Long-Term Effects of Quitting Smoking

If you stop smoking now, the benefits start in 20 minutes.

"Why should I stop smoking now? The damage is already done." That's one refrain often heard from smokers when family and friends ask them to quit.

It's also completely wrong. Medical experts have found that a person's health improves within minutes of the last puff from the last cigarette, and continues in the years that follow.

Research has found that people who quit smoking drastically reduce their risk of dying from a smoking-related disease. Those who quit before they turn 51 cut their chances of dying within the next 15 years in half, as compared with people who don't quit. Even smokers who stop in their sixties increase their life expectancy by one year. When you quit smoking, you live longer and those extra years are spent in better health.

Short-Term Benefits of Stopping Smoking
About 20 minutes after your last cigarette, your body already has begun to respond to your decision to quit smoking:

  • Your blood pressure goes down
  • Your pulse rate slows
  • The temperature of your hands and feet increases

freedomfromsmokingEight hours after you quit smoking, your blood has begun to recover from the effects of smoking. The levels of both carbon monoxide and oxygen in your bloodstream return to normal. Within 24 hours, your chance of a heart attack has already decreased as your system repairs itself.

About 48 hours after you quit smoking, nerve endings deadened by the habit have begun to regenerate and your sense of taste and smell has already improved.

A few weeks after you quit smoking, your circulation has improved and your lungs have begun to function better. Walking and exercising become much easier. Within the first few months, your phlegm production has decreased and you won’t find yourself coughing or wheezing as much.

Long-Term Benefits of Quitting Smoking
The benefits of your decision to quit smoking continue long after the immediate impact. You might not feel these benefits the way you felt the quick improvement in your lung function and overall health, but you'll still enjoy them:

  • 1 year: Your excess risk of suffering coronary heart disease has decreased to half the risk of a continuing smoker.
  • 5 years: Your risk of having a stroke has decreased compared to continuing smokers, and will continue to decrease over time.
  • 10 years: A decade after you quit smoking, your risk of lung cancer is now half that of people who keep smoking. You've also experienced a decrease in your risk of ulcers and other cancers, including cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, pancreas, kidneys, and bladder.
  • 15 years: Your risk of coronary heart disease is now comparable to that of people who never smoked a single cigarette. Your risk of dying also is nearly back to the same level as that of non-smokers.

Other Benefits of Not Smoking
Nicotine addiction can lead to some short-term emotional costs when you choose to quit smoking. You are likely to feel anger, irritation, and depression as you struggle with your dependence on tobacco. But as the days go by, you will also feel a surge of self-respect as you master your addiction, and over time that will translate into a greater sense of self-esteem.
You also might find that:

  • Your bad breath is gone.
  • The stains on your teeth, fingers, and fingernails fade.
  • The smoke smell dissipates from your hair, clothes, car, and furniture.
  • You have more overall energy and are better able to enjoy life.

With all of these health benefits, why are you still smoking? Make the commitment today, and get the help you need to quit smoking successfully.

Source: Everyday Health, www.everydayhealth. By Dennis Thompson Jr., mMedically reviewed by Cynthia Haines, MD

Want to quit smoking?
Learn more at www.hr.emory.edu/healthspotlight

View previous quick facts:
Tobacco Quick Fact 1: What's Really in a Cigarette?
Tobacco Quick Fact 2: How Much Does It Cost?
Tobacco Quick Fact 3: Tobacco and Your Heart

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