Health improves once you quit smoking

Contributing writerNovember 20, 2011 

Quitting tobacco use is one of the best things that you can do for your personal health. But have you ever wondered what happens to your body when you quit?

The American Cancer Society shares these facts about what happens to the body after a person quits smoking:

Twenty minutes after quitting: Your heart rate and blood pressure drop.

Twelve hours after quitting: The carbon monoxide level in your blood drops to normal.

Two weeks to 3 months after quitting: Your circulation improves and your lung function increases.

One to 9 months after quitting: Coughing and shortness of breath decrease; cilia (tiny hair-like structures that move mucus out of the lungs) start to regain normal function, increasing their ability to handle mucus, clean the lungs, and reduce the risk of infection.

One year after quitting: The excess risk of coronary heart disease is half that of a person who continues to smoke.

Five years after quitting: The risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, and bladder are cut in half. Cervical cancer risk falls to that of a non-smoker. Stroke risk can fall to that of a non-smoker after 2-5 years.

Ten years after quitting: The risk of dying from lung cancer is about half that of a person who is still smoking. The risk of cancer of the larynx and pancreas decreases.

Fifteen years after quitting: The risk of coronary heart disease is that of someone who does not smoke.

These are just a few of the benefits of quitting smoking for good. Quitting smoking lowers the risk of diabetes, lets blood vessels work better, and helps the heart and lungs. Quitting while you are younger will reduce your health risks more, but quitting at any age can give back years of life that would be lost by continuing to smoke.

In addition to personal health benefits, there are significant benefits for those who care about you. Second-hand smoke is harmful, especially to growing children. Babies and children exposed to smoke are more likely to get colds, ear infections, bronchitis, and pneumonia, and have more asthma attacks. The risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is higher both for babies whose mothers smoked while pregnant and for those babies exposed to second-hand smoke after birth.

If you are considering quitting, there are resources in our community to help. The Stop Smoking Support Group at Providence St. Peter Hospital is free and open to the public. It meets at 7 p.m. Wednesdays in the cafeteria. Call 360-357-5297 for more information.

Many health plans cover tobacco cessation programs; check with your health plan. Talk with your health care provider about what the best option is for you.

Online you can visit the American Cancer Society’s website at www.cancer.org. Just click on the link to quit smoking.

There are many good reasons to quit smoking. What is yours?

Dr. Diana T. Yu is the Health Officer for Thurston and Mason counties. Reach her at 360-867-2501 or yud@co.thurston.wa.us.

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