For smokers who are considering kicking the habit, many don''t realise just how profound an effect it can have. Smoking does have serious harmful effects as we all know, but the human body is remarkably resilient and can recover from years of abuse at the hands of tobacco. The key to this recovery is time, here is how your body will start to heal itself when you quit smoking, and when:
- After just 20 minutes from finishing your last cigarette your body will start to self heal. Your blood pressure and pulse rate will start to fall, while there will be an increase in the temperature of your feet and hands.
- After 8 hours both the nicotine and carbon monoxide levels will reduce significantly. Carbon monoxide levels returning back to normal mean the blood''s ability to carry oxygen also returns to normal, improving circulation.
- At the 24 hr stage, the body will now be completely free from traces of nicotine and carbon monoxide. Your risk of suffering from a heart attack has just started to fall.
- From the 48 hour mark you may notice your ability to smell and taste improves as nerve endings re-grow. Also, the excess risk of lung cancer stops as well as the decline in lung function.
- Between 2 weeks and 9 months after you quit, you will notice significant improvents in your health. Your skin will look more glowing, younger and less wrinkled. You should notice you have much less phlegm, and coughing & wheezing will be much less frequent. The function of your lungs will also improve by about 10%.
- One year after you quit is a major milestone in your body''s recovery process. Not only can you be proud of your achievement, but your risk of suffering coronary heart disease and having a heart attack are now half that of a smoker.
- After 10 years of staying smoke free there will be no turning back as you will have spent most of the last decade looking and feeling younger than when you smoked. And you can look forward to many more years now your risk of lung cancer is reduced to half of that of a smoker. There is also a similar decrease in the risk of cancer of the throat, mouth, kidney, bladder and pancreas.
- 15 years down the line and your body is still working to repair all the damage done by tobacco. It''s good news for you though, now your risk of heart attack and coronary heart disease are the same as someone who never smoked!
Looking at what your body has to do to heal itself should surely bring home just how damaging smoking can be. While much of that damage is at least partially reversible, you can see that it is going to take quite some time. If you continue to smoke, just think about how much time you actually have.
Why Is It So Hard To Quit Smoking?
Quitting smoking is hard. Real hard! Trying to quit after you have become dependant on smoking to get through the day will cause you to suffer nicotine withdrawal. Symptoms include craving tobacco, increased hunger and difficulty concentrating. These symptoms last at least 1 month, and all it takes is 1 moment of weakness to get you reaching for a pack of cigarettes again. But why is it so difficult?
To the average non-smoker, observing someone smoking is a little strange as there is no obvious outward effect. With alcohol, an observer can see the user achieves a certain state of euphoria, and the same could be said of illegal substances like cocaine and heroin.
So how have cigarettes become the most addictive substance in use today when there is no obvious effect to the observer, and why is this habit so hard to kick? We must first understand why nicotine is addictive in the first place.
The addictive properties of nicotine are as subtle as they are powerful. And it is this subtlety that allows it to worm its way into the everyday lives of smokers.
It is believed that nicotine, in smaller doses, arouses the human brain by increasing the frequency of brainwave activity. This is why smokers tend to light up first thing in the morning or when they are feeling down or bored. This effect has also been shown to help improve concentration levels and increase reaction times.
In larger doses, nicotine has the ability to sedate the brain in the complete opposite way smaller doses arouse it. Now a smoker can turn to nicotine in times of stress, when agitated or angry, or after a traumatic experience. The result of a higher nicotine dose is a calming effect, not unlike a mild tranquiliser.
The ability of nicotine to give a user the facility to return their psychological level to a neutral state, almost at will, makes this a very powerful drug indeed. Now consider a smoker who''s brain is already in a neutral state, a small dose of nicotine will give them a slightly heightened mental state. Not to the euphoric degree of something like heroin, but enough to give them an edge. They will be able to concentrate better and their reaction times will be improved.
We now begin to see how it is that smokers become dependant on nicotine to help them through the highs and lows of a typical working day, whether that be working 9 - 5 or looking after kids at home.
So now we can answer our question of why it is so hard to stop smoking. When someone starts smoking, almost subconsciously, they will recognise its ability to arouse and sedate the brain. This gives them a powerful ally in the modern stressful world. It can help them to perform at work, as well as calm them down when they get stressed out.
After a while the habit develops of reaching for a cigarette at certain times of the day. They will rely on nicotine to get them going in the morning, to give them an edge at work and then to help them relax at home or having a drink with friends.
As a casual smoke develops into habit, habit then develops into dependence. And this is why it is so hard to quit smoking.