More than half a million people die in the U.S. every year from smoking-related illnesses. Those deaths are preventable.
Smoking is the single most preventable cause of disease, disability and death.
“Smoking affects every system in your body,” says Donna Bond, D.N.P., R.N., a Carilion Clinic certified tobacco treatment specialist. “Every time you take a puff on a cigarette, you are constricting oxygen and blood flow to every system and every organ in your body. Over time, the damage just adds up everywhere.”
That damage often remains invisible until later in life, when it emerges as chronic bronchitis, emphysema, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) or lung cancer.
“Many people who smoke think, ‘I'm 50, so it's normal for me to be short of breath or to have to slow down,’” she says. “But, it is absolutely not normal to experience those kinds of symptoms.”
Benefits of Quitting
The good news is that it is never too late to quit smoking! Almost immediately after you quit, your lungs and other smoke-damaged organs start to repair themselves.
You can start getting better the day you put down the cigarettes.
- 20 minutes - Your blood pressure and heart rate decrease.
- 12 hours - Carbon monoxide and oxygen levels in your blood return to normal.
- 48 hours - Your sense of smell and taste begin to improve as nerve endings start to regrow.
- 2 weeks–3 months - Your lung function and blood circulation improve.
- 1–9 months - Coughing and shortness of breath improve, and your lungs handle mucus and infection better.
- 1 year - Your likelihood of heart disease is now half of that of a smoker!
- 2–5 years - Your risk of stroke can fall to that of someone who never smoked.
- 5 years - Your risk of mouth, throat, esophagus and bladder cancers is cut in half.
- 10 years - Your risk of dying from lung cancer is half that of a person who still smokes.
- 15 years - Your risk of coronary heart disease is the same as a nonsmoker.
Need more motivation? Not only will your health improve, your wallet will too. In one year, you will save approximately $2,000 from not buying cigarettes.
How to Quit
Quitting is more than a physical habit; it's also psychological, emotional and behavioral. So Donna recommends having a plan of action, especially for those activities and times of day that trigger the desire to smoke.
“I tell my patients that they have to figure out what they are going to do instead of lighting up a cigarette when those triggers pop up,” she said.
Try some of Donna’s top tips to get started:
- Set a quit date and stick to it.
- Choose a quitting method: medications, cold turkey, switching to lower-nicotine brands or gradually reducing the number of cigarettes you smoke each day.
- Tell your friends, family and coworkers you are quitting.
- Learn techniques to cope with withdrawal. These can include taking a walk, drinking plenty of water, having healthy snacks on hand or taking up a new hobby.
- Change your routines. If you are used to having a cigarette with your morning coffee, drink your coffee while petting your cat or playing with your child. If you smoke after eating, end your meal by washing up or taking a walk.
Remember that you do not have to do it alone. Talk to your health care provider or try one of these helpful resources:
And most importantly, don’t give up. Quitting smoking is tough, but you can be tougher!