While most people today are well aware of the dangers of smoking cigarettes, 38 million Americans still smoke according to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). Cigarette smoking among adults tends to be higher in the following situations: lower-income states, men, people with no high school diploma or who have a GED, people who are living in poverty or are disabled, and those who report having serious psychological distress.
Smoking can cause serious health complications. In fact, there are over 5,000 chemicals in a lit cigarette. Here are just some of the many diseases and risks that come with smoking, according to the CDC:
- Smoking causes more deaths annually than the following causes combined:
- Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
- Illegal drug use
- Alcohol use
- Motor vehicle injuries
- Firearm-related incidents
- Over 10 times as many U.S. citizens have died prematurely from smoking cigarettes than those who have died in all the wars fought by the U.S. combined.
- Smoking causes about 90% of all lung cancer deaths. Lung cancer causes more deaths in women than breast cancer each year.
- Smoking causes about 80% of all deaths from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
- Cigarette smoking increases risk of all-cause mortality in men and women.
- Risks of death from smoking cigarettes have increased in the last 50 years in the U.S.
- Estimates show smoking increases the risk:
- For coronary heart disease by 2 to 4 times
- For stroke by 2 to 4 times
- Of men developing lung cancer by 25 times
- Of women developing lung cancer by 25.7 times
Smoking cigarettes might temporarily relieve stress, but the negative effects on your health are just not worth it. In this article, we’ll go over how your body heals when you quit smoking and what other healthy habits you can develop to release stress.
Here are 12 ways your body heals when you quit smoking:
“Every year in the U.S., more than 480,000 people die from tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke, making it the leading cause of preventable death in this country.” – American Lung Association
1. Your body’s oxygen level returns to normal.
Smoking cigarettes requires you to inhale carbon monoxide, which overtakes levels of oxygen in the body. People who smoke a pack a day have 3-6% of carbon monoxide in their blood, but ideal levels are less than 1%. With higher levels of carbon monoxide present, your body must work harder to distribute oxygen to your organs.
However, your oxygen levels return to normal within 8 hours of quitting. In other words, your body finally gets a chance to rid itself of the carbon monoxide.
2. When you quit smoking, you can smell and taste better.
After quitting, your senses of smell and taste will return to normal after two days. Addictive substances in cigarettes dull your senses. For this reason, when your body detoxes, it will start functioning properly again. This means foods will taste better and your favorite candle or incense will smell much more pleasurable.
3. Your circulation improves.
Blood circulation improves within just 20 minutes of quitting. This will help cut your risk of a heart attack, stroke, or cancer since blood will flow better to your heart and other organs once again.
4. You will experience fewer coughing fits and infections.
Smoking greatly irritates the lining of the lungs. It increases the risk of infections because it lowers the immune system. Smoking every day also leads to inflammation of the lungs, which restricts air passages and makes it harder to breathe. Your lungs have tiny air sacs, or alveoli, that help distribute oxygen. Smoking destroys these air sacs, potentially causing permanent damage to the lungs. So, depending how long you’ve been smoking, you could help your lungs return to normal by quitting.
Smoking also paralyzes and even kills cilia – tiny hairs in your airways. These hairs help clean out mucus and dirt so your lungs can function properly. When you quit smoking, the hairs will return, making your lungs healthier and cleaner.
5. You’ll have more energy.
In just two weeks of quitting, you’ll notice your energy levels greatly increasing. Without the nicotine and other harmful chemicals pumping through your body, you’ll start to detox. Your interest in other activities will likely also increase. A lot of people turn to exercise as a way to relieve stress instead of smoking because it releases feel-good chemicals such as endorphins.
6. Your heart will become healthier.
After 5-10 years, your risk of cardiovascular diseases, heart attack, and stroke becomes equal to that of a nonsmoker. Though it takes a while to heal, the sooner you quit, the quicker your body can begin the healing process.
7. Your breathing will greatly improve.
Since you won’t have carbon monoxide in your body sucking out the oxygen, it will be a lot easier for you to breathe deeply. Your breaths won’t seem as shallow. After just three months, lung capacity rises by up to 39 percent.
8. Your risk of cancer decreases significantly.
After five years, the risk of stomach, mouth, throat, esophageal, and lung cancer decreases by 50%.
9. Your immune system will improve.
Our bodies are very adaptable, so when we stop ingesting toxins, they can start to heal quite quickly. By eliminating exposure to thousands of chemicals, the immune system finally gets the chance to do what it’s designed to do – protect your body from harm and keep you healthy.
10. Your breath will smell better.
According to a study in Journal of Natural Science Biological Medicine, bad breath is common among smokers. Cigarettes dry out the mouth and throat, which makes the perfect breeding ground for nasty bacteria. Quitting smoking increases production of saliva, which will help your breath smell better.
11. You have less brain fog.
With chemicals constantly being pumped into your body, your brain loses oxygen, which can lead to a foggy feeling in the brain. When you quit, you’ll notice that your brain feels a lot sharper. You’ll find yourself better able to complete tasks. You will also have a more balanced mental state as you won’t have to deal with addiction to a substance any longer.
12. Your hair will start growing again.
Smokers tend to have unhealthy hair. According to a study in the journal Dermatology, smoking cigarettes can lead to hair loss. However, when you quit, your cells begin to heal. This will allow your hair to grow much fuller and thicker.
Ways to Cope with Stress Other Than Smoking
Smoking cigarettes might help you deal with stress in the short-term, but the long-term health effects may cost you the ultimate price. Quitting won’t be easy, but if you have support from family, friends, and even a therapist if you need it, you can get through it. You’ll also need activities to keep you busy so you won’t have as much time to think about how much you miss smoking. If you need some ways to cope with stress, here are a few healthy options:
- Exercise. One study showed that even moderate intensity exercise helped curb nicotine withdrawal symptoms. Exercise also serves as an outlet for stress. So, if you feel like lighting up, go for a run instead. Once you do this for a week or so, you’ll start to form better habits that will help you cope with withdrawals.
- Talk with friends and family. Lean on your support system when you feel like you can’t deal with the withdrawals. They will help you stay on track and encourage you to keep going even if it feels impossible at the time. Positive associations can help you fill that void in your life and keep you on a healthier path.
- Try something new. You’ll save a lot of time and money when you give up the habit of smoking, so now you will have more freedom to try new things. Use the money to follow a passion such as rock climbing or taking a cooking class. This way, you’ll have somewhere to direct your energy. It will also give you a confidence boost to have a new skill under your belt.
- Have a routine. Idle time will only encourage you to dwell over the fact that you miss smoking. Try to have a daily routine in place filled with things you enjoy so you don’t feel tempted to go backwards.
- Surround yourself with positive people. The people in our lives can either steer us toward becoming a better person or make us stray from our goals. Make sure the people you surround yourself with have your best interests at heart.
- Set goals. Having goals will help keep your mind busy and give you something to work toward, which will help you leave smoking behind for good.
We hope this article shed some light on the positive things that happen to your body when you quit smoking. If you struggle with quitting, please do utilize the tips above. Additionally, you can call 1-800-QUIT-NOW for immediate help and access to services in your area that can offer you further support.