The Benefits of a Smoke-Free Lifestyle
If I Quit Smoking…
You may ask yourself, “What exactly happens if I quit smoking?” If you have even a glimmer of a thought that quitting smoking might not be worthwhile, especially after years of the habit, these live longer, healthier and wealthier benefits will surely change your mind. “If I quit smoking?” Make that when.
Add Years Back to Your Life
That sounds like a lofty promise for quitting. But when cigarettes are gone from your life, you do in fact greatly improve your chances of living longer.
According to a study by Sir Richard Doll and colleagues that appeared in the BMJ in 2004, people who were able to stop smoking before they were thirty years of age lived almost as long as those who had never picked up a cigarette. The researchers also discovered that three years of healthy life were added to people who stopped smoking in their sixties.
What Quitting Does to Your Body
Although you may not consciously be aware of the benefits of quitting in the first few days, your body is actually reaping the rewards almost as soon as you’ve stubbed out your last cigarette.
Twenty minutes after your last puff your blood pressure and heart rate drop; within 12 hours, your carbon monoxide levels are back to normal. When you were smoking, carbon monoxide levels in your blood were raised, which hindered its ability to carry oxygen to your cells. Your lungs will start to regain some of their normal functions within two to three months of quitting. You will be able to breathe easier and will be coughing much less than people who continue to smoke. Every single cigarette you smoke damages your breathing.
After one year of quitting smoking your risk of heart attack drops sharply. During your years of devotion to cigarettes, the smoke you inhaled damaged the structure and function of blood vessels, which increased the risk of a dangerous build-up of plaque in your arteries. Over time, plaque hardens and narrows the arteries, increasing the risk of a heart attack. After two to five years, the chance of you having a stroke is nearly the same as that of a non-smoker.
Your risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus and bladder is cut in half five years after quitting smoking. Tobacco smoke damages the DNA in your cells, the 'instruction manual' that tells cells how to develop. This can cause cells to grow out of control which is how cancerous tumors begin to form. According to the 2010 U.S. Surgeon General's Report, one of every three cancer deaths in the United States would not happen if nobody smoked.
Remember that when you quit, it’s not only your health that will improve but that of your children as well. Secondhand tobacco smoke damages the tissues of unborn babies and it can lead to short- and long-term health concerns in children, such as bronchitis and pneumonia.
Further Benefits if You Quit Smoking
Although there are many scientifically proven benefits to quitting smoking, there’s a whole world of social and lifestyle advantages to kicking the habit too. These include:
- Saving lots of money: Smokers typically pay higher life and health insurance premiums, and not having to buy cigarettes anymore can keep a lot of cash in your wallet.
- Leading a more active lifestyle (no more gasping for air on that hike)
- Smelling a lot sweeter – you may have not noticed the foul odor smoking can cause…but it’s likely that others have.
- Feeling more confident that you’ll be there to take part in happy future events, such as graduations and weddings
- Being a healthy living role model to those around you
Whatever age you are, it is never too late to give up smoking and enjoy the benefits of a cigarette-free lifestyle.
By Paul Arnold
Doll R, Peto R, Boreham J, Sutherland I. "Mortality in relation to smoking: 50 years' observations on male British doctors". BMJ. 2004. 328 (7455): 1519.
Office of the Surgeon General. A Report of the Surgeon General: How Tobacco Smoke Causes Disease. 2010