Chronological Benefits of Smoking Cessation

It is no secret that there are many health risks when choosing to smoke. What once was fashionable in the early 20th century has now become one of the deadliest habits to acquire. There are ways to break the habit, though, and the health benefits of smoking cessation begin almost immediately. Taking it hour by hour or day by day will surely increase the smoker's level of confidence, giving him incentive to continue his quest toward improved health.

  1. Significance

    • It has been estimated by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), that more than 400,000 Americans die every year from smoking. It has been determined that smoking is responsible for more deaths than suicides, homicides, car accidents, alcohol and AIDS combined. For this reason alone, the benefits of smoking cessation are being brought to light.

    Function

    • Chemicals in a cigarette, courtesy of ihec.org.

      It is never too late to quit smoking. No matter how long a person has smoked, or what his age may be, it can be accomplished, and his overall health will still improve. The cause of the addiction is quite obviously the nicotine, which increases and releases a chemical in the brain called dopamine. Dopamine is responsible for the pleasurable sensations a person feels, which is why many who smoke often rely upon it as a stress reliever or a relaxer during times of anxiety. However, the effects of dopamine only last for a short time, resulting in the smoker's "need" for another cigarette. However, the health benefits of smoking cessation begin in as little as 20 minutes after the last smoked cigarette, and last for as long as 10 years or more.

    Time Frame

    • Comparison of lungs between smokers and non-smokers, courtesy of changingstatesco.uk

      Within just 20 minutes after smoking a cigarette, blood pressure and pulse rates decrease, giving the heart a much needed break. Eight hours later, the carbon monoxide levels in the body begin to decrease, which improves the flow of oxygen through the blood stream. Within 24 hours, all traces of carbon monoxide are gone. Forty-eight hours after smoking the last cigarette, all traces of nicotine are washed out of the body, and the smoker may begin to notice an improvement in sense of taste and smell.
      It is between 2 and 12 weeks that blood circulation is back to full capacity, and lung function can increase by as much as 30 percent. For those who suffer from smoker's cough, they will begin to notice it no longer exists after 3 to 9 months, along with their shortness of breath. Within 1 year of smoking cessation, the risk of experiencing a heart attack is cut in half. Five years later, the risk of dying from lung or mouth cancer is reduced by 50 percent, and once the smoker has reached his 10-year cessation anniversary, his risk of suffering a heart attack or developing lung cancer is equivalent to those who never smoked.

    Misconceptions

    • There are a great many misconceptions about smoking cessation that quite frequently prevents those who want to quit from quitting. Perhaps the greatest misconception needing to be quelled is that you will inevitably gain unwanted pounds. This is not necessarily the case. The amount of weight gained during smoking cessation will depend mainly on your choice of foods used to help control the craving for nicotine. For example, if you opt for fruits and veggies over chocolate, chances are you will maintain your figure and increase your overall health.

    Considerations

    • Smoking not only affects the smoker, but those around them as well. Second-hand smoke, the smoke exhaled by the smoker, is considered to be more dangerous than the cigarette itself. The particles released into the air surrounding those who do not smoke, including infants and children, are much smaller, and therefore inhaled more deeply into their lungs. Thus, the benefits of smoking cessation do not end with the smoker themselves. Children of smokers will be at a decreased risk for developing asthma and respiratory infections, and those who are pregnant will also decrease the risk of delivering a premature or underweight baby.

    Warning

    • While the health benefits of smoking cessation far outweigh any benefits a smoker feels cigarettes provide, there will also be withdrawal symptoms. They will generally begin about 4 hours after the last smoked cigarette and will be at their worst for the first 3 to 5 days. Some of the symptoms may include headaches and irritability, or can be as severe as depression. While many feel that quitting "cold turkey" is proof of their will power, there are many smoking cessation programs and products designed to help the smoker through this trying time and increase the chances of successfully quitting. The first 2 weeks are considered to be the most critical when attempting to break the habit, so it is imperative to seek all the help you can.

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  • Photo Credit Photo courtesy of emsinc.tv.org

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