Knowledge

Never too late to quit smoking

Knowledge

Never too late to quit smoking

If you’ve struggled to quit smoking, you’re not alone. Nicotine is a highly addictive substance. In fact, a study by the surgeon general found the “behavioral characteristics that determine tobacco addiction are similar to those that determine addiction to drugs such as heroin and cocaine.” 

Smoking is the leading cause of premature, preventable death in the United States. It can lead to numerous types of cancers, heart disease, stroke, aortic aneurysm, chronic bronchitis, emphysema, asthma and even cataracts, according to the National Cancer Institute. Smokers are also at higher risk of developing pneumonia and other airway infections.

The benefits of quitting

“The younger you quit, the increased odds that you’ll dodge significant health issues, but quitting at any age can give back years of life that would be lost by continuing to smoke,” says Coy Lassiter, M.D., a pulmonologist at Piedmont Physicians Georgia Lung. “It’s definitely worth overcoming the addiction to achieve quality of life in your later years.”

When smokers quit, the benefits accumulate over time, says the American Cancer Society.

  • 20 minutes after quitting: 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: Circulation improves and lung function increases.

  • One to nine months after quitting: Coughing and shortness of breath decrease; cilia (tiny hair-like structures that move mucus out of the lungs) start to regain normal function in the lungs, increasing the 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 a continuing smoker’s.

  • Five years after quitting: Risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus and bladder are cut in half. Cervical cancer risk falls to that of a non-smoker. Stroke risk can fall to that of a non-smoker after two to five years.

  • 10 years after quitting: The risk of dying from lung cancer is about half that of a person who is still smoking. The risk of cancer of the larynx (voice box) and pancreas decreases.

  • 15 years after quitting: The risk of coronary heart disease is that of a non-smoker’s.

“Smoking comes at a high cost — financially and health-wise,” Dr. Lassiter says. “Smoking cessation helps our bodies heal by eliminating further damage from the toxic cigarette smoke, allowing our heart and lungs to function at peak performance. It is never too late to quit smoking."

Learn more about how to quit smoking.

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