Have you been longing to quit smoking, but just cannot find the will to do so?
Perhaps a look at some of the benefits of quitting can give you that extra boost you need to combat those cravings.
Here, we’ll outline some of the health benefits you can obtain by quitting smoking.
Cardiovascular Health Improves
Smoking cigarettes increases the risk for cardiovascular disease, even in those who smoke fewer than 5 cigarettes per day¹⁻³.
Within 2 to 12 weeks of quitting⁴⁻⁵, your blood circulation begins to significantly improve, which can make exercise and other types of physical activity much easier to do.
In fact, within 6 months of quitting, it was found that the risk for death by cardiovascular disease (i.e., heart attack and coronary heart disease) decreases by about one-half in comparison to individuals who continue to smoke⁶.
And, in a 16-year follow-up study of individuals who quit smoking, it was found that death from coronary heart disease decreased by almost 12% in quitters who received interventions that encouraged them to stop smoking⁷.
Restored Immune Function
Studies have shown that smoking increases activity of the immune system, marked by increased presence and activity of immune cells in the blood like leukocytes⁸, monocytes⁹, and biomarkers of inflammation like interleukin-6 and c-reactive protein¹⁰.
As well, oxidative stress increases significantly in smokers, which may be a direct result of increased immune activation⁸.
In other words, smoking increases markers of inflammation in the body, which can contribute to illness if inflammation remains high for long periods of time¹¹.
Importantly, it was shown that immune function and several other processes that regulate immune function improved within 1 month after individuals quit smoking.
Specifically, researchers observed a decrease in the stress hormone, cortisol (an immunosuppressive compound) and an increase in natural killer cell activity (necessary to fight off infection)¹².
Similarly, another study found that active smokers had significantly higher levels of inflammatory biomarkers in comparison to those who had never smoked or were previously smokers but had quit¹³.
Thus, there is clear evidence that smoking activates the immune system, which can lead to negative long-term effects and increase the risk, frequency, and severity of infection.
But, quitting smoking seems to allow immune function to return to normal, which may help reduce the frequency and severity of sickness caused by viral and bacterial infections.
Changes Sensory Perception
Smoking can negatively impact the senses, including smell, taste, and hearing, and this could very well influence diet by driving individuals to consume food and drink that are more palatable (i.e., high-carb and high-fat).
In a large review of the literature, researchers found that smoking significantly increased the risk of olfactory dysfunction, or an impairment in the sense of smell. However, they also found that this risk was significantly reduced in individuals who had quit smoking¹⁴.
This indicates that actively smoking may impair the ability to smell, but that this impairment can be reversed when one quits smoking.
In one study, participants were tested for their sense of taste after abstaining from smoking for 12 hours. Interestingly, they found that just 12 hours was enough to restore taste sensitivity in females, but not in males¹⁵.
However, other studies have found that quitting may not restore taste perception for bitter drinks like coffee, which the authors say may be a result of accumulated toxic compounds from smoking cigarettes¹⁶.
In this context, the extent to which quitting reduces smoking-induced taste impairments may follow the old saying, “better sooner than later.”
Finally, there is evidence that smoking is associated with hearing impairments¹⁷, and that smoking can amplify the risk of age-related hearing loss in individuals diagnosed with diabetes¹⁸ or accelerate hearing loss caused by high-noise work environments¹⁹.
Importantly, one study with female participants found that the risk of hearing loss associated with smoking diminished over time after quitting²⁰.
And some researchers support the idea that quitting smoking may be a useful strategy to maintain adequate hearing ability²¹.
Even more promising, other studies have demonstrated that quitting essentially eliminates the risk of hearing loss, even in those who recently quit smoking²².
In summary, there is clear evidence that smoking can cause serious negative effects on the body. Fortunately, quitting smoking is accompanied by a myriad of health benefits which appear to begin in as little as 12 hours after smoking the last cigarette.
The benefits provided here are only a few of many. Try it for yourself and see how much better life can be after knocking this bad habit.
As always, consult your physician before making any significant changes to your diet and/or lifestyle.