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Quit Smoking – 20 minutes to better health!

Did you know that when you quit smoking the health benefits begin within just 20 minutes! Hard as it may seem to believe, it is a well-known fact that your body does in fact start to benefit from stopping smoking after only 20 minutes.

This article will take you through some of the facts and figures on the effects smoking may be having on your health, lifestyle and general well-being, and that of your loved ones. We outline some of the reasons to quit smoking, and we will also talk you through the timeline to better health. Finally, we hope to help you to start on your journey to quit by outlining eight ways that will help you to achieve your target.

Smoking facts and figures

Smoking kills – 1 in every 2 smokers will die from a tobacco-related disease.

  • In Ireland, almost 6,000 people die each year from the effects of smoking and thousands of others suffer from smoking-related diseases.
  • Smoking takes 10 to 15 quality years off your life.
  • Every cigarette you smoke takes 5 and a half minutes off your life.
  • Every 6 and a half seconds someone in the world dies from smoking, that’s 1.5 million people a year.
  • Most smokers (83%) would never smoke if they had the choice again, they regret that they ever started to smoke.

Reasons to stop smoking

  • Reduce your risk of life-threatening diseases.
  • Save lots of money. Calculate how much using the easy-to-use calculator at this link – you will be amazed at how much you can save: https://www.nicorette.ie/get-ready-to-quit/stop-smoking-budget-calculator
  • Have better skin, teeth and hair.
  • Have nicer smelling clothes and hair.
  • Improve the air quality in your home.
  • Protect your family and friends from second hand smoke inhalation.
  • Be a role model for your younger relatives.
  • Your circulation will improve, and your blood pressure and heart rate will get lower. This immediately reduces your risk of a heart attack.

Not yet convinced?

Stop smoking to protect your family

Cancer risks

Second hand smoke contains carcinogens. These are chemicals that cause cancer. People who breathe in second hand smoke are at increased risk of smoking-related diseases. For example, non-smoking women who live with a partner who smokes are 27% more likely to get lung cancer than non-smoking women who live with another non-smoker.

Effects on Children

Second hand smoke causes numerous health problems in infants and children, including more frequent and severe asthma attacks, respiratory infections, ear infections, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

Timeline to better health

From 20 minutes to 20 years – see how you can immediately start to benefit from quitting to reaching the stage where your risks of fatal diseases are reduced to that of a person who has never smoked.

After 20 minutes

In just 20 minutes after the last cigarette is smoked, the heart rate drops and returns to normal. Blood pressure begins to drop, and circulation may start to improve.

After 12 hours

The nicotine and carbon monoxide levels in your blood go down, and the oxygen level rises. Cigarettes contain a lot of known toxins including carbon monoxide, a gas present in cigarette smoke. This gas can be harmful or fatal in high doses and prevents oxygen from entering the lungs and blood. After just 12 hours without a cigarette, the body cleanses itself of the excess carbon monoxide from cigarette smoking. The carbon monoxide level returns to normal, increasing the body’s oxygen levels.

After one day

Just 1 day after quitting smoking, the risk of heart attack begins to decrease.

Smoking raises the risk of developing coronary heart disease by lowering good cholesterol, which makes heart-healthy exercise harder to do. Smoking also raises blood pressure and increases blood clots, increasing the risk of stroke.

In as little as 1 day after quitting smoking, a person’s blood pressure begins to drop, decreasing the risk of heart disease from smoking-induced high blood pressure. In this short time, a person’s oxygen levels will have risen, making physical activity and exercise easier to do, promoting heart-healthy habits.

After 2 days

Smoking damages the nerve endings responsible for the senses of smell and taste. In as little as 2 days after quitting, a person may notice a heightened sense of smell and more vivid tastes as these nerves heal.

After 3 days

3 days after you quit smoking, the nicotine levels in a person’s body are depleted. While it is healthier to have no nicotine in the body, this initial depletion can cause nicotine withdrawal. Around 3 days after quitting, most people will experience moodiness and irritability, severe headaches, and cravings as the body readjusts.

After 1 month

In as little as 1 month, a person’s lung function begins to improve. As the lungs heal and lung capacity improves, former smokers may notice less coughing and shortness of breath. Athletic endurance increases and former smokers may notice a renewed ability for cardiovascular activities, such as running and jumping.

After 1-3 months

For the next several months after quitting, circulation continues to improve.

After 9 months

Nine months after quitting, the lungs have significantly healed themselves. The delicate, hair-like structures inside the lungs known as cilia have recovered from the toll cigarette smoke took on them. These structures help push mucus out of the lungs and help fight infections.

Around this time, many former smokers notice a decrease in the frequency of lung infections because the healed cilia can do their job more easily.

After 1 year

One year after you quit smoking, a person’s risk for coronary heart disease decreases by half. This risk will continue to drop past the 1-year mark.

After 5 years

Cigarettes contain many known toxins that cause the arteries and blood vessels to narrow. These same toxins also increase the likelihood of developing blood clots. After 5 years without smoking, the body has healed itself enough for the arteries and blood vessels to begin to widen again. This widening means the blood is less likely to clot, lowering the risk of stroke. The risk of stroke will continue to reduce over the next 10 years as the body heals more and more.

After 10 years

After 10 years, a person’s chances of developing lung cancer and dying from it are roughly cut in half compared with someone who continues to smoke. The likelihood of developing mouth, throat, or pancreatic cancer has also significantly reduced.

After 15 years

After 15 years of having quit smoking, the likelihood of developing coronary heart disease is the equivalent of a non-smoker. Similarly, the risk of developing pancreatic cancer has reduced to the same level as a non-smoker.

After 20 years

After 20 years, the risk of death from smoking-related causes, including both lung disease and cancer, drops to the level of a person who has never smoked in their life. Also, the risk of developing pancreatic cancer has reduced to that of someone who has never smoked.

8 resources to help you quit smoking

We appreciate that quitting cigarettes is easier said than done, so please read on to check out eight ways to help you quit smoking. These resources are in no particular order as different approaches work for different people.

1 – HSE Quit Plan

The HSE quit plan is a great place to start. It includes a daily email and text support as well as a personalised web page to track your progress. Avail of one-to-one support from a trained stop-smoking adviser and tips from people who have already succeeded in quitting smoking. Call 1800 201 203 or freetext the word QUIT to 50100. See also quit.ie.

2 – Stop smoking course (St Vincents University Hospital)

St Vincent’s University Hospital run a really well established 6-week stop smoking online course.  The course provides group support as well as advice on medications available to help you to quit. Tel: 01 221 4958 or email smokingservice@svuh.ie.

3 – Cold turkey

This is possibly the hardest way to stop smoking, but it works for some people. People have sometimes taken up sport such as running, swimming, walking, cycling or a team sport – this makes you feel physically better and provides motivation to continue as you will start to feel better.

Successful quitters have also told us that when they felt the urge to have a cigarette, it helped to distract themselves by using techniques such as deep breathing, taking a short walk, drinking a glass of water or eating a healthy snack.

4 – Prescription medication

There are prescription medicines that can improve your chances of stopping smoking. These medicines reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms including restlessness, irritability, low mood and weight gain. You will need to see your GP before you plan to give up smoking because you need to start taking the medications before your quit date. Many of these medications are covered by the medical card scheme. Ask your GP or pharmacist for more information.

5 – Nicotine replacement therapy

Nicotine replacement therapies give you small amounts of nicotine through their products without the other harmful chemicals in tobacco.  These therapies are designed to help reduce cravings and physical symptoms of withdrawal so you can focus on breaking your addiction. Nicorette, one of the main brands of nicotine replacement products (gum, lozenges, patches, mouth spray or inhalers) claim that they double your chances of quitting by using will-power alone.

6 – Acupuncture

Acupuncture treatments can help reduce physical cravings for cigarettes. Studies have found that about half of those who have acupuncture treatments for six weeks successfully quit smoking.  Ask us for help if you need to find an acupuncturist in our area.

7 – After dinner cigarette

If your after-dinner cigarette is your favourite, a simple diet change may help to beat this one. According to a US study, some foods including meat make cigarettes more satisfying, while other foods such as cheese, fruit & veg make cigarettes taste really bad. So maybe swap your steak or burger for a vegetarian option or have some cheese on a cracker or some fruit as an after-dinner treat.

You may also want to get up after your meal and start on the dishes right away (this will also go down well with the family) or go for a short walk to break that after dinner habit.

Don’t hesitate to ask one of our friendly team of healthcare experts in store for our help on your journey to quitting.

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