If you’ve been a smoker for any amount of time, quitting has probably crossed your mind. It’s no secret that smoking cigarettes is dangerous to your personal health and even that of the people around you who inhale your secondhand smoke. From cancer to lung disease and a myriad of other health complications, cigarettes are nothing but a health risk.
If you’re thinking about quitting, there’s never been a better time. With plenty of alternative tobacco products available, on and offline community resources, and support groups, you can ditch the habit and maybe even save your own life. What happens when you quit? Here’s how your body recovers.
Your Lungs Heal Over Time
Your lungs are resilient organs. It takes some time before regular smoking causes tar buildup in the lungs, but once it does, it makes it more difficult to breathe properly and makes the process of oxygenating blood harder for the lungs and blood vessels.
Within a month after you’ve quit smoking, your lungs are starting to heal from the damage. The individual components that are damaged first (alveoli, cilia) begin to heal, thus improving overall lung function and your capacity to breathe properly. You’ll notice a difference when you climb stairs, walk long distances, or do any physical activity.
Your Gums Recover
Your lungs and internal organs aren’t the only parts of the body that smoking affects. You’ve probably noticed discoloration in the teeth and gums, and even your gums pulling away from teeth. Smoking restricts blood vessels in the mouth and causes the gums to pull away from your teeth, which can expose sensitive areas to plaque.
Not to mention, smoking can seriously yellow that beautiful smile. Once you’ve quit smoking, you’ll find your gums start to heal and your teeth don’t continue to become discolored. You might need a professional cleaning to lift some of those smoker stains, but if you’ve been smoking long enough, they may not disappear at all.
You can also try alternative tobacco products that don’t harm your teeth or gums, like tobacco free chew or even vape pens. Be sure to do your research when it comes to vape pens, however, as recent controversy has some questioning their safety.
Blood Pressure Drops to Normal
Smoking restricts the blood vessels, which can cause hypertension or high blood pressure. High blood pressure, given enough time, can damage blood vessels and cause a stroke, heart attack, or other cardiac problems. The heart isn’t the only organ affected by high blood pressure, either.
The kidneys, eyes, and even your sexual organs can be negatively affected by hypertension. Once you quit smoking, your blood pressure begins to drop to normal levels. This could literally save your life!
The Body Purges Excess Carbon Monoxide
Carbon monoxide is a dangerous and fatal gas if enough of it is inhaled at once. Sounds scary, right? Well, smoking actually puts minute levels of carbon monoxide into your bloodstream. Every time you light up a cigarette, you’re maintaining the levels of harmful carbon monoxide in your blood and putting your life at risk.
Carbon monoxide makes the process of oxygenating the blood more difficult by binding to hemoglobin. With reduced ability to oxygenate blood cells and vital organs, you’ll likely experience fatigue, shortness of breath, dizziness, and hypertension. If carbon monoxide levels in your blood increase enough, you could lose the ability to oxygenate your blood, which is most certainly fatal.
Within just a few days’ time after you quit smoking, the body begins to purge the excess carbon monoxide in your bloodstream and oxygenation begins to improve. Given enough time, you’ll get full function back!
You Can Smell and Taste Again
If you’ve been smoking long enough, you’ve probably experienced the disappointment of not being able to fully taste or smell your favorite scents and flavors. Smoking restricts blood vessels and damages nerves in the mouth and airways, reducing your ability to enjoy that hot, steamy apple pie or the smell of roses.
After you quit, within a few weeks you’ll begin to gain your sense of taste and smell once more as the nerve cells begin to repair themselves. Sometimes, damage can be permanent, and you won’t fully recover, but something is better than nothing.
Your Cancer Risk Drops Dramatically
The risk of cancer is increased tenfold when you’re a smoker. Lung cancer is attributed to smoking in nearly all lung cancer cases, and throat, mouth, esophageal, and even stomach cancer can be linked to smoking cigarettes. Once you quit smoking and your body begins to heal, your cancer risk drops dramatically.
Cancer is something that no one should ever have to go through. Aside from painful treatments, chemotherapy, and the chance of death, the medical bills that follow a cancer diagnosis are enough to bankrupt anyone. Why risk it by intentionally consuming a product that is well-known to cause cancer? There’s never been a better time to stop smoking.