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Quit smoking to boost health

[Original article on NHS Choices website]
After 15 years of not smoking, your risk of heart attack is the same as if you'd never smoked at all.

Within a year of stopping smoking, your risk of heart attack falls to about half that of a continuing smoker, and within 10 years the risk of lung cancer falls to half that of a smoker.

You know it's bad for you, you know you should give up, but here's a reminder of why: you'll be healthier, you'll have more money, your breath and clothes won't smell, you'll look a lot better and you'll probably live longer.

And you'll stop being a health hazard to your family and the people around you.

Smoking poisons your body and causes over 80% of deaths from lung cancer, bronchitis and emphysema (chronic breathing difficulty), and a quarter of deaths from heart disease. But if you stop now, you'll start to cut your risk of these and many other diseases.

There's hardly any part of your body that isn't damaged by smoking.

Why is second-hand smoke such a health hazard?

Non-smokers who breathe in second-hand smoke (smoke from other people's cigarettes) inhale more than 4,000 chemicals, at least 50 of which are known to cause cancer. For non-smokers, breathing other people's smoke means an increased risk of lung cancer, heart disease and stroke.

For children, second-hand smoke means twice the risk of chest illnesses, including pneumonia, croup (swollen airways in the lungs) and bronchitis, plus more ear infections, wheezing and asthma. They also have three times the risk of getting lung cancer in later life compared with children who live with non-smokers.

Can't I just cut down rather than give up?

You can try but it probably won't work. Smoking is addictive, which is why some people find it so hard to stop completely. When you cut down you tend to take more and deeper puffs on each cigarette to get your nicotine hit. It's only by stopping completely that you can beat the addiction.

I'm worried I'll put on weight when I stop.

Cigarettes do affect your appetite and your metabolism, and they dull your taste buds, so people often gain a few pounds when they give up. You can prevent that by doing more exercise and staying away from high calorie foods. But if you do gain a little weight, don't worry: you can lose it again once you've quit the cigarettes.

The quitting timeline.

Believe it or not, after 15 years of not smoking, your risk of having a heart attack is the same as if you'd never smoked at all.

  • After 20 minutes your blood pressure and pulse return to normal.
  • After eight hours blood levels of nicotine and carbon monoxide are halved and your oxygen levels return to normal.
  • After 24 hours carbon monoxide is eliminated from your body and your lungs start to clear.
  • After two days your body is nicotine free and your sense of taste and smell improve.
  • After three days you can breathe more easily, the bronchial tubes relax and your energy levels increase.
  • After two to 12 weeks your circulation improves.
  • After three to nine months lung function increases by up to 10%. Coughs, wheezing and breathing problems improve.
  • After one year your heart attack risk is now half that of someone who smokes.
  • After 10 years your lung cancer risk is now half that of a smoker.
Published Date
2007-12-17 14:46:00Z
Last Review Date
2010-07-23 00:00:00Z
Next Review Date
2012-07-23 00:00:00Z
ClassificationBreathing problems,Hand,Heart attack,Lung cancer,Smoker,Stopping smoking


 
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