When quitting makes you a winner

Everyone loves a winner.  We love them so much we hand out awards and heap mounds of praise on them.  We tell people “don’t quit” when times get tough. But there is one time when a person quits and we say “great job – good for you!” One time that is so important for their health that we are excited to realize they have just extended their life by years.

That one time is when someone makes the decision to quit smoking. Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the United States. Each year, more than 480,000 people will die due to inhaling cigarette smoke which accounts for 1 out of every 5 deaths.

Currently, about 15 out of every 100 U.S. adults aged 18 or older (15.1%) smoke. This figures out to be about 36.5 million adults who have chosen not to quit – yet.  A recent study may make them change their mind.

This study, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, found that people aged 70 or older who currently smoked, were more than three times likely to die at an earlier age than people who have never smoked a cigarette in their life. Former smokers were found less likely die at an early age the sooner they quit.

More than 160,000 individuals aged 70 and older participated in this study by completing a questionnaire in 2004-2005 detailing their past and present smoking habits. Any deaths that occurred of any participant were tracked until the end of 2011. Between 2014 and 2016 analyses were conducted to correlate death with self-reported age at smoking initiation and cessation and amount smoked after 70 years of age.

What was found was that those who reported smoking were three times more likely to have died by 2014-2016 than those who were nonsmokers. Having quit smoking reduced the risk of death – compared with current smokers those who had quit in their 30s had less than half the risk of dying. But – and here’s the incentive to quit regardless of your age – those who waited until their 60s to kick the habit still had a 23 percent lower risk than those who continued to smoke.

Smoking is simply a poor habit to pick up. There are no health redeeming qualities of it and the toll of dragging on a cigarette will eventually catch up as serious health issues begin to arise – chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema, chronic bronchitis, coronary heart disease, and cancer, most notably lung cancer

When a person quits smoking, there are several health benefits that will begin within 20 minutes making them a true winner:

· Within 20 minutes after smoking a cigarette, your heart rate will slow down to a more normal rate.

· Within two hours, your heart rate and blood pressure will ascend downwards and blood circulation will begin to improve.

· After 12 hours of quitting, the carbon monoxide in the body decreases to lower levels helping the amount of oxygen in the blood to increase back to normal.

· In a 24 hour span, the risk of coronary artery disease begins to decline.

· Two days later, the ability to smell and taste improves making the little things in life so much more appreciated.

· Within 36 hours or 3 days without a cigarette, the nicotine in the body is completely gone. At this time is when nicotine withdrawal can peak. Physical and emotional withdrawal symptoms of headaches, nausea, cramps, sweating, anxiety, irritability, and depression can set in making quitting especially difficult. 

· After 3 weeks, physical activity is noticeably easier without feeling winded. During this time is when blood circulation and heart function improve significantly. The lungs also begin to clear making the ability to take a deep breath easier.

· One month after giving up smoking, the tiny, hair-like structures called cilia that push mucus out of the lungs will begin to be repaired. Cilia help fight off infections and clear the lungs making coughing and shortness of breath reduced dramatically.

The decision to quit smoking will be one of the most defining moments of a person’s life.  It is not an easy feat but there are several effective methods that can help a person kick the habit.  It will change their life for the better both physically and mentally.  For anyone who has ever quit smoking, you will always be a winner.