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Lungs health

When you quit smoking: the benefits after 20 minutes from the last cigarette

May 28, 2019

The World Health Organization promotes this event every year in order to encourage people to quit smoking and to raise awareness of the damage caused by cigarette smoking. Wednesday 31 May is World No Tobacco Day: for all smokers, whether regular or occasional, it is an invitation to take away a vice that is extremely harmful to health. With Dr. Licia Siracusano, oncologist and referent of the Humanitas Anti-smoking Center, we see why quitting smoking is so important and what happens in our bodies from the moment we no longer introduce nicotine. The first effects occur after just 20 minutes.


Did you know?

Within the first half hour after the last cigarette, the heart slows down and the pressure normalizes.
Staying two hours without smoking produces a lowering of the heart rate and a normalization of blood pressure levels, there are also benefits to blood circulation. The most surprising thing, however, is that quitting smoking produces immediate benefits: already after 20 minutes there is a lowering of the heart rate, which tends to normalize.

After half a day, the carbon monoxide levels in your body drop.
After 12 hours from the last cigarette, the levels of carbon monoxide decrease, while those of oxygen in the blood increase. Carbon monoxide, which is released from the tobacco that burns and is inhaled while smoking, binds very well to blood cells, so high levels of this substance in the body can compromise the link of cells with oxygen, with a lack of oxygen in the blood and consequent cardiovascular problems.


Reduces the risk of coronary heart disease in 25 hours

Smokers are 70% more at risk than non-smokers of coronary heart disease, one of the most common heart diseases. Along with reducing the risk of coronary heart disease, the risk of heart attack is also reduced.


Taste, smell and lung capacity improve in two days

By quitting smoking, you encourage the growth of nerve endings, with a recovery of taste and smell skills. After 3 days it also improves the lung capacity.


Skin and hair return bright in two weeks

Two weeks later, the first changes start to appear. In two months, those who stop will notice that their skin and hair are looking healthier again: they are less dull, their skin is more elastic and wrinkles are reduced.


The lungs repair themselves after one month

After a month without cigarettes, those tiny structures that push the mucus out of the lungs, called pulmonary eyelashes, begin to repair themselves. Having free lungs significantly reduces coughing and shortness of breath and helps fight infections and release the lungs efficiently.


The risk of heart disease decreases after one year

After a year without cigarettes, the risk of cardiovascular disease has fallen. After five years, however, the risk of heart attack and the onset of neoplastic disease decreases. After 15 years since the last cigarette, the risk of cardiovascular disease, chronic bronchitis and emphysema is equal to that of a non-smoker, as well as that of the onset of cancer. “In case of chronic emphysema, if I stop smoking the inhalation therapy really works – added the specialist -. In addition, after 3 months improves the picture of chronic bronchitis and halves the risk of heart attack. After 15 years since the last cigarette, the risk of cancer is close to that of a non-smoker.


Fake news about quitting smoking

It’s not just a matter of health (although this is certainly the priority): quitting smoking saves a lot of money. It has been calculated that an average smoker spends as much per year on cigarettes and tobacco as a thirteenth month’s salary: 5.50 euros per day. A nice amount to be used in really healthy activities or to save. With so many pros and cons, then what is stopping smokers from quitting? Apart from dependence, physical and psychological and lack of will, there is a fake news to be debunked: the fact that quitting smoking makes you gain weight. As confirmed by specialists, it is not the nicotine stop that produces weight gain but it is the tendency of ex-smokers to “vent” on more food and sugar the lack of a cigarette as a ritual with strong anti-stress power.

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