As a tobacco smoker, your life expectancy is at least 10 years less than a non-smoker’s. But a New England Journal of Medicine study shows kicking the habit at any age adds years to your life. Analyzing health data of over 200,000 Americans, it reported the odds of current smokers reaching age 80 was half that of never-smokers. However, if you stop smoking by 34, you gain 10 years. Quitting between 35 and 44 adds nine extra birthdays. If you stop between 45 and 54, celebrate six additional years. Even at 64, you get four more years. Giving up the tobacco has more benefits than these statistics. Read on for why and how you must kick the habit.
Reasons to Stop Smoking
The U.S. adult smoking rate has declined to 19.3 percent, but an estimated 45.3 million people still smoke. Cigarette use is responsible for about 443,000 annual U.S. deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Mortality among smokers is about three times higher than among non-smokers. Around 8.6 million people suffer from smoking-related lung and heart diseases. Half of all smokers who don’t quit die from these and other smoking-related illnesses. You can avoid these serious health conditions by saying “no” to tobacco.
Damage to almost every human organ.
Cancer. Besides lung cancer, smoking increases your risk for cancer of the nose, sinuses, mouth, lip, voice box, throat, esophagus, bladder, kidney, pancreas, cervix, ovary, stomach, colon, rectum and acute myeloid leukemia.
Lung diseases. Smoking causes or worsens chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and pneumonia. Smokers as young as 40 have trouble breathing with COPD. This chronic and disabling illness worsens over time and may become fatal.
Heart attacks, strokes and blood vessel diseases. Smokers are twice as likely to die from heart attacks as non-smokers. Peripheral vascular disease narrows the blood vessels that carry blood to your leg and arm muscles. When affected, vessels carrying blood to your brain can trigger strokes. An abdominal aortic aneurysm often causes sudden death. Men with blood vessel diseases are more prone to erectile dysfunction.
Blindness and other physical problems. Macular degeneration can cause cataracts, which cloud your eyes’ lenses, and blindness. Smoking also causes premature wrinkles, bad breath, tooth loss, gum disease, yellow teeth and fingernails plus unpleasant-smelling clothes, hair and skin.
Unique risks to women and babies. Female smokers over 35 on birth control pills have a higher risk of heart attack, stroke and blood clots in their legs. Pregnant smokers are more likely to miscarry or deliver lower birth-weight babies with increased risks of learning and physical problems or death. Women’s death rates from smoking, lower than men’s for decades, now equal them.
Shorter active life. If you don’t die 10 or more years early, smoking-related diseases will make any extra years difficult.
Immediate and Long-Term Benefits to Not Smoking
The health improvements begin almost instantly after quitting and continue for years to come, reducing your disease risks while prolonging your life.
Just 20 minutes after quitting, your heart rate and blood pressure drop.
In 12 hours, your blood’s carbon monoxide level drops to normal.
After two weeks to three months, your circulation improves and your lung function increases.
In one to nine months, coughing and shortness of breath decrease. Your lungs start to regain normal function, reducing your infection risk.
On your one-year anniversary, your excess risk of coronary heart disease is half that of a continuing smoker.
The five-year mark cuts your risk of mouth, throat, esophagus and bladder cancer in half. Cervical cancer risk drops to that of a non-smoker. Stroke risk can match a non-smoker’s in two to five years.
When you reach the 10-year milestone, your risk of dying from lung cancer is about half that of someone who still smokes. Your voice box and pancreas cancer risks decrease.
After 15 years, you reclaim a non-smoker’s coronary heart disease risk.
How to Quit
Research suggests that using medications and nicotine replacement therapies, often in combination, can double or triple your chance of quitting successfully. Try these tips:
Commit to quit. Whether you developed smoke-related diseases or lost someone special to smoking too soon, quitting must be your decision.
Plan. Pick a firm date within a month so you won’t back out. Obtain doctor-prescribed tablets, nasal sprays or inhalers early. You’ll need to start Chantix (varenicline) or Zyban (bupropion) pills one to two weeks before your quit day. Decide if you’ll taper off smoking or skip lighting up at specific times. Plan daily routine changes to avoid smoke-inducing activities.
Prepare. Stock up on over-the-counter nicotine replacements like patches, gums and lozenges. Buy oral substitutes like sugarless gum, hard candy, cinnamon sticks, coffee stirrers, straws and toothpicks. Clear your home, car and work of all cigarettes, lighters and ashtrays. Involve friends and family for support. Practice saying, “No thanks. I don’t smoke.”
Be strong. Starting on quit day, don’t take one puff! Stay busy. Walk or exercise. Drink water and juices. Avoid smokers, alcohol and typical smoking situations.
Manage physical and mental withdrawal. Use nicotine replacements and oral substitutes. Don’t give in to false rationalizations that you can smoke just one. Delay your urge for 10 minutes while concentrating on anything else.
Stay tobacco-free. Reward yourself by using your former cigarette money to buy something special. Remember your reasons for quitting. Focus on how your health, finances and family are benefitting.