Many people who smoke understand that smoking has many negative consequences, and can be very damaging to your physical health, your mental health and to your finances.
Smoking increases the risk of disease and cancers, and can also make other conditions like asthma much worse. One in every two smokers will die of a tobacco related disease.
Making the decision to quit can be a big step, but it will lead to so many benefits for both your physical and mental health. It may feel difficult, but it is possible to quit, especially with the right support in place.
The benefits of quitting smoking
After quitting smoking you might notice some differences in your physical health. You’ll see some benefits straight away and others as time goes on. The physical health benefits of quitting smoking start within 20 minutes of your last cigarette and continue for the rest of your life.
Read about how to quit smoking here.
General health improves
There are 4,000 chemicals in each cigarette. 60 of these are known carcinogens, meaning they are cancer causing. As well as this, tar and nicotine in cigarettes affect different parts of your body.
When you smoke, there is less oxygen circulating in your body. This is because you inhale carbon monoxide (CO) when you smoke a cigarette. CO displaces oxygen in the blood. Put simply, it competes with oxygen to attach to red blood cells and wins. This deprives the heart, brain and other vital organs of the oxygen they need. After giving up smoking, your oxygen levels will increase and circulation improves. This will lead to several benefits including:
- Having more energy
- Your immune system functioning better
- Healthier and stronger muscles
- Better healing from injury
Nicotine also increases the release of the hormone cortisol. This is your body’s main stress hormone. Cortisol has an important function in your body: to fuel your ‘fight or flight’ response. However, when your cortisol is high, it alters or shuts down other functions in your body like:
- Your digestive system
- Your reproductive system
- Your immune system.
While cortisol is important at certain times, having excess cortisol when you don’t need it is not good for your body.
Less risk of disease
Smoking increases the risk of getting many diseases including:
- Cancers such as mouth, lung, kidney and colon cancer and acute myeloid leukemia
- Cardiovascular disease and conditions (diseases or conditions of the heart or blood vessels including coronary artery disease or stroke)
- Digestive diseases including gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), stomach ulcers and Crohn’s disease
Breathing becomes easier
Within 24 hours of your last cigarette, carbon monoxide is eliminated from your body. Your lungs will start to clear out debris that has built up while you smoke.
Small hair like structures in your lungs called cilia start to grow back. These help push mucus out of your lungs and help fight infections.
During this time you might experience a cough. This isn’t something to worry about, it’s your lungs clearing themselves out as they return to normal.
As mentioned above, your circulation will improve. Within one to three months your lung function will increase by 10%.
Giving up smoking will improve your basic fitness. This is because:
- Your lung function will increase
- Your circulation will improve and more oxygen will get around your body
- Your muscles will get stronger and healthier because they will be getting more oxygen
- Your body will recover better from illness, exercise and in general
As a smoker, your body must work much harder when you work out. This is because smoking increases your resting heart rate. This is how fast your heart beats while you are not doing any physical activity. When you exercise your heart rate will increase and can reach a dangerously high level if you smoke.
Read more about why personal fitness and exercise is important.
Giving up smoking can also have benefits for your mental health.
Get help and support to QUIT smoking
- Talk to your GP or pharmacist about NRT.
- Visit Quit.ie for tips on how to stop smoking.
- Call the Quitline on Freephone 1800 201 203 to talk to someone who understands and can help you quit.
- Head to the Quit.ie Facebook page to read stories from others who have quit smoking and to share your own.
- Find more information on quitting smoking at spunout.ie/quit
Disclaimer: There is more than one way to quit smoking. You may need to try a few different things to find what is right for you. For advice and support on quitting, visit spunout.ie/QUIT.