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Seven Good Things That Happen When You Quit Smoking

Smoking is bad for your health – this is something you’ve known for a long time. But if you’re a smoker, quitting is difficult because of the addictive stop smokingnicotine found in cigarettes. However, quitting may be more appealing knowing your health begins to improve almost immediately after your last cigarette.

Here are seven things that happen to your body when you quit smoking:

1. Your blood pressure and heart rate improve

“Twenty minutes after your last cigarette, your blood pressure and heart rate return to normal levels,” said Kelly Pressler, RN, Abington – Jefferson Health’s lung cancer navigator. “The temperature of your hands and feet also return to normal.”

2. The quality of your blood improves

“When tobacco is burned and then inhaled, one of the thousands of chemicals that enter your body is carbon monoxide,” Pressler said. “When the smoke is inhaled into your lungs, carbon monoxide is rapidly absorbed into the blood stream. Quitting smoking allows these levels to return to normal in just 12 hours.”

3. The health of your heart and lungs improve

Between two weeks and three months after quitting, your risk of heart attack decreases and your lungs begin to improve.

4. You regain normal lung function

When you have a healthy respiratory system, it is continuously cleansed – mucus is produced and it traps dirt and disease-causing organisms. Hair-like projections in your lungs called cilia sweep mucus toward the mouth to be eliminated. However, smoking impairs this function. Over time, smoking paralyzes cilia, which can eventually disappear altogether, leading to the development of smoker’s cough.

“Within one to nine months of quitting smoking, coughing, sinus congestion, fatigue and shortness of breath decrease. Cilia also regain normal function in your lungs, increasing your ability to handle mucus, clean your lungs and reduce the risk of infection,” Pressler said.

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5. You lower your risk of heart disease

When you remain smoke-free for one year, the risk of developing coronary heart disease is cut in half.

“Remaining steadfast in your commitment to quit smoking further reduces your risk of heart disease – 15 years without cigarettes reduces your risk of coronary heart disease to that of a nonsmoker’s risk,” Pressler said.

6. Your risk of stroke decreases

After five years of quitting smoking, your risk of stroke reduces to that of a nonsmoker’s risk.

7. You reduce your risk of cancer, lengthening your life

“When you reach your 10-year anniversary of quitting cigarettes, your risk of dying from lung cancer is about half that of a smoker’s risk. Your risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, bladder, kidney and pancreas also decreases,” Pressler said.

Reminding yourself of the benefits to your health immediately and down the road can serve as motivation to quit smoking. But in case you need a little extra help relieving the discomfort that often comes with the physical urges of smoking, here are four things to try:

Fight the Urge to Smoke


“When you feel the urge to light up, don’t immediately reach for a cigarette. If you wait, the urge will pass in about three to five minutes,” Pressler said.

Breathe deeply

Take 10 slow, deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth.

Do something else

“If you focus on something you enjoy doing other than smoking and keep busy, it can help keep you from thinking about cigarettes,” Pressler said. “Go to the gym for a workout. Chew a stick of gum.”

Drink water

Sip on water slowly throughout the day.

“Aim to drink up to eight glasses a day – water helps flush addictive nicotine out of your body,” she said.

You may be eligible for Abington-Jefferson Health’s Lung Screening Program if you’re a long-term smoker between the ages of 55 to 74 with a 30-pack history, which is two packs a day for 15 years or one pack a day for 30 years. For information, call 215-481-LUNG.

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