By Zahid Dar, MD
About 36.5 million Americans still smoke cigarettes, and tobacco use remains the single largest preventable cause of disease and premature death in the world.
Quitting smoking at any age has immediate and long-term benefits. Quitting is hard, but you can increase your chances of success with help. Research shows that by getting help through counseling or medications can double or triple your chances of quitting successfully.
The sooner you quit, the more you’ll reduce your chances of getting cancer and other diseases. Within minutes of smoking your last cigarette, your body begins to recover:
20 minutes after quitting
Your heart rate and blood pressure drop.
12 hours after quitting
The carbon monoxide level in your blood drops to normal.
Two weeks to three months after quitting
Your circulation improves and your lung function increases.
One to nine months after quitting
Coughing and shortness of breath decrease. Tiny hair-like structures that move mucus out of the lungs (called cilia) start to regain normal function in your lungs, increasing their ability to handle mucus, clean the lungs, and reduce the risk of infection.
One year after quitting
The excess risk of coronary heart disease is half that of someone who still smokes. Your heart attack risk drops dramatically.
Five years after quitting
Your risk of cancers of the mouth, throat, esophagus, and bladder is cut in half. Cervical cancer risk falls to that of a non-smoker. Your stroke risk can fall to that of a non-smoker after two to five years.
10 years after quitting
Your risk of dying from lung cancer is now about half that of a person who is still smoking. Your risk of cancer of the larynx (voice box) and pancreas decreases.
15 years after quitting
Your risk of coronary heart disease is that of a non-smoker’s.
Quitting smoking also lowers your risk of diabetes, lets blood vessels work better, and helps your heart and lungs.
Life expectancy for smokers is at least 10 years shorter than that of non-smokers. Quitting smoking before the age of 40 reduces the risk of dying from smoking-related disease by about 90 percent.
Quitting also helps stop the damaging effects of tobacco on how you look, including premature wrinkling of your skin, gum disease and tooth loss.
Help is available – and it’s free!
The American Cancer Society can help you take steps to quit smoking and provide quit-smoking programs, resources and support that will increase your chances of quitting successfully. To learn more, call 1-800-227-2345.
If you have questions about your lung health, see your health care provider. A lung screening (such as a CT scan) may be suggested. To learn about the Aurora Health Care screening program, call 855-229-0924.
Quitting smoking at any age can give back years of life that would be lost by continuing to smoke. It’s never too late to quit using tobacco.
Dr. Zahid Dar, MD is an oncologist at Vince Lombardi Cancer Clinic in Oshkosh, 855 N. Westhaven Dr. His office can be reached at 920-456-7870.
Photo courtesy of Aurora Health Care.