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Did you know smoking is the leading cause of avoidable deaths in Ireland with 6,000 people dying each year from the effects of smoking? The statistics are scary but the benefits from quitting are endless. Within 20 minutes of quitting you are already making a difference to your health. After 48 hours nicotine and carbon monoxide are gone from your body. After 2-3 months your lung capacity can increase by up to 30% and after 1 year you have reduced your chance of a heart attack by half.
Here’s what happens when you quit cigarettes:
1. You may reduce your risk of life-threatening diseases
When you quit smoking, you reduce the risk of life-threatening diseases significantly. The risk of lung cancer could fall by over 90% if you quit before age 40, and can still go down even if you are older than that. You can also cut your risk of heart attack by 50% within 5 years of quitting, and cut the risk of stroke by 40% in the same period.
Incredibly, research also shows that quitting smoking can slow the progression of COPD, improve symptoms, and reduce the risk of cancers of the mouth, throat, oesophagus, and bladder between 30% and 50%.
2. You may improve the air quality in your home, providing a safer environment for you, your family, and your friends
Stopping your smoking habit can also significantly improve air quality in your home, helping to generate a safer and healthier environment. Quitting prevents your tobacco use from harming yourself and other people in your home through secondhand smoke.
Smoking cessation can also prevent tobacco smoke from damaging your property and reducing the value of your assets. Being a non-smoker prevents your house or flat from accumulating dangerous compounds, such as tar, in the furniture and fabric of the building.
3. You may help reduce any breathing difficulties you may suffer from
Another benefit of quitting is reducing the breathing difficulties you may have, independent of a COPD diagnosis. You may notice improved oxygen levels and circulation improves in as little as one week, encouraging you to continue smoke-free, even if you have cravings.
According to the CDC, coughing and shortness of breath begin to decrease in one month. Therefore, you might notice your energy levels increase in as little as four weeks as the carbon monoxide leaves your system and your bronchial tubes begin to function more normally for a person in your age group.
4. You may improve your sense of smell and taste
Interestingly, stopping smoking also improves your sense of taste and smell. Regaining these faculties can start making life more enjoyable in just a few weeks.
When you stop smoking, your body begins a process of damage reversal. Cessation lets the cells on your tongue and olfactory receptors in your nose recover, improving your ability to sense the food in your mouth. It also removes the chemical interference of tar and nicotine. Cells process and remove these substances, preventing them from dulling your sense of taste so you can perceive more of the true flavours in the food you eat.
5. You may look and feel healthier
Quitting smoking also helps you look and feel healthier. When you stop smoking, lung function increases, helping you oxygenate your tissues better. You also begin the long process of eliminating the harmful toxins in cigarette smoke, removing it from your skin and other tissues, allowing them to function as normal. You could even see a reduction in blood pressure, the leading risk factor for a heart attack or stroke.
6. You'll save money
Quitting will also help you save money. The price of a pack of cigarettes in Ireland has increased significantly over the last few years.
Many smokers' health suffers because of the stress associated with these costs. Therefore, quitting could help you relax more financially, even if you have nicotine cravings for the first few weeks or months.
7. You'll have cleaner teeth with fresher breath and healthier hair, skin and nails
When you quit smoking, you may notice improvements in the condition of your hair, skin, nails and a fresher breath.
Here are some proven tips to support you on your journey:
1. Pick a strong reason to quit smoking to keep you motivated
Everyone who quits smoking successfully has a quit plan. These help you stay motivated, even when side effects get bad.
Ideally, you want your "why" when you decide to stop smoking. You want something that will motivate you throughout your quitting journey.
For example, your "why" might be the desire to avoid heart disease or be there for your children when you get older. It could also be because you feel a sense of duty to a family member and don't want your health to prevent you from supporting them.
2. Pick a quit date and stick to it
Once you have your "why," pick a quit date and stick to it. People who go cold turkey are much more likely to quit and experience all the health benefits it offers.
Avoid the temptation to allow yourself "just one cigarette" at the weekend or social events. Research shows that this approach can undermine your efforts to kick the habit.
Worse still, smoking on and off can prevent you from experiencing the benefits of quitting, making it harder to stay positive.
3. Identify and avoid triggers associated with smoking
We also recommend staying away from triggers that increase the risk of smoking. For example, many people instinctively light up during coffee breaks at work or smoke around certain groups of friends. Parties, bars and night-time activities can also increase smoking risk, as can just the smell of smoke, even from e-cigarettes.
Pay close attention to when your cravings are at their worst. Identify what they are and then organise your life around avoiding them. For example, don't go for coffee when your smoking colleagues do, and avoid late-night social activities, spending time at home instead.
4. Do regular physical activity as this helps curb the cravings and manage weight
Another strategy is to do more exercise when you quit smoking. The more active you can be, the better you can manage cravings.
Many people lose hope during their quitting journey because they don't stay busy. Cravings can feel overwhelming, creating an irresistible urge to light up.
However, when you exercise, you naturally get feel-good factors that can reduce the strength of these cravings and prevent them from significantly impacting them.
5. Manage Stress
Finally, you might want to try managing stress. Many people use cigarettes to reduce unwanted feelings, such as anxiety and depression. However, when you quit smoking, these feelings can come back quickly.
Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to manage stress that can help you quit. These include deep breathing, meditation, or keeping a stress ball in your office drawer.
6. Explore NRT (Nicotine Replacement Therapies)
NRT (Nicotine Replacement Therapy) helps to reduce the withdrawal symptoms by giving you a small level of nicotine without the carbon monoxide, tar or other harmful chemicals found in cigarettes that increase the risk of heart attack and lung cancer.
There is a range of Nicotine Replacement Therapies (NRTs) available in your local LloydsPharmacy, or in our online store, including patches, sugar-free chewing gum, lozenges, inhalers and sprays.
Always make sure to chat with your pharmacist for advice on what option would suit you best. Nicotine gum is a good option for people who like having something in their mouth while patches can be better for others who want to stay quiet.
What withdrawal symptoms can occur when you Quit Smoking?
Stopping smoking is excellent for your overall health. However, you will more than likely experience some withdrawal symptoms if you are accustomed to nicotine.
- Increased Appetite and Weight Gain
Many people experience weight gain after they quit smoking. That's because cigarettes act as an appetite suppressant.
Therefore, ensure you eat healthy snacks, like fruit. Avoid high-calorie highly-palatable foods for the first few weeks and months while your body adjusts.
- Difficulty Concentrating
Putting down that last cigarette can also make it more challenging to focus at work. Nicotine has an energising effect on the brain that goes away when you quit. Therefore, you might notice that your normal cognition seems to go down when you quit.
If you experience this side effect, talk to your doctor or healthcare professional. They can provide advice, tips, and support, showing you how to maintain your performance, including utilising nicotine replacement therapies.
- Difficulty Sleeping
Some smokers also have trouble sleeping when they quit. The removal of nicotine from the brain can disrupt sleeping patterns.
Again, you can speak to your doctor if you experience this issue. Professionals can offer tips and support for quitting while maintaining your health.
- Sore Throat
Other symptoms, such as coughs, headaches, and sore throats, are usually a sign that your body is detoxifying and healing. Cigarette smoke can be hard to remove from some tissues, causing an immune response to clear everything out.
These withdrawal symptoms can be unpleasant, but they don't usually last particularly long. You should get back to your normal self in a few weeks.
- Mood Swings and Irritability
You might also start to experience irritability and mood swings after you quit. Not having as much nicotine in your system increases depression risk, making you feel irritable, restless, and anxious.
Even if your heart rate went down after you quit smoking, you might notice that it starts to go back up again as you cope with the stress and struggle of life. If you are finding it hard to relax, you can get support from qualified professionals in your area who specialise in cigarette cessation.
Get advice on quitting smoking
When you stop smoking, your risk of cancer and heart attack starts to fall quickly. Those who quit early enough can sometimes reduce their risk of developing these diseases to baseline levels – as if they had never smoked.
To quit smoking, the first stop should be your pharmacy. Quitting smoking isn't easy and it's better to start the journey with the best advice, tips, and support. It also helps to talk to people who have helped many people in your situation quit.
Every LloydsPharmacy has well-trained staff who are available to give you the best advice for your personal quitting needs. LloydsPharmacy colleagues have received over 17,000 hours of training in smoking cessation and other areas to provide year-round advice.
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