Everyone knows by now that smoking is unhealthy. Is because cigarettes contain the harmful substances tar, nicotine and carbon monoxide. Especially the tar is very bad for your lungs. Nicotine is an addictive substance that works especially on the nervous system, and the substance that makes quitting smoking so difficult. But what actually happens in your body when you stop smoking?
When smoking, thousands of chemicals are released into your body. Not only is this bad for your lungs, but it also causes damage to your heart. It is the carbon monoxide that ensures that no more oxygen enters through the red blood cells. Red blood cells normally transport oxygen to cells in your body.
Professor of Toxicology Martine van den Berg at Utrecht University explained that the carbon monoxide from the cigarette binds to your red blood cells. As a result, your body has to work harder for more oxygen, which is bad for your heart. But even if you have smoked for many years, you can reverse the unhealthy effects of this and soon experience the benefits for your health.
The period after smoking
The positive effects of quitting smoking will soon take effect. Quitting smoking always makes sense and 20 minutes after your last cigarette there are already noticeable effects in your body.
20 minutes after your cigarette
Your blood pressure and heart rate drop again. Also ‘repair’ your bronchial tubes. From your trachea, air enters these bronchi, both of which are connected to your lungs.
Due to constant exposure to smoke, fibers in the bronchi move less well, but if you stop, they also do that better. The fibers move irritants and bacteria from your lungs, reducing the risk of infection.
24 hours after your cigarette
Your lungs continue to clean themselves. All the carbon monoxide is already out of your body and probably coughs up your mucus.
2 to 12 weeks after your cigarette
Your lung function and circulation are improved.
1 year after your cigarette
You can worry less about cardiovascular diseases, the risk of this has now been halved. You may notice how much easier you breathe during exercise and how much less you cough, compared to when you still smoked.
15 years after your cigarette
After this long time, the risk of having a heart attack or stroke has dropped significantly, to a level equal to that of someone who has never smoked before. The risk of cardiovascular diseases is also equal to that of a non-smoker. 15 years is a real milestone when you stop smoking.
Of course, it is true that you will experience withdrawal symptoms after stopping. Possible withdrawal symptoms that you may experience are gloom, a feeling of restlessness or panic, or concentration problems. Such a change in your mood is because your body protests against the sudden lack of nicotine. After two weeks, you’ll probably feel better.
According to pulmonologist and founder of The Youth Smoking Prevention Foundation Wanda de Kanter, she sees the withdrawal symptoms peaking on the third day after stopping. “Your brain has to work harder in the first 6 to 8 weeks to produce dopamine, it can then feel like you are depressed,” according to the Kanter.
The role of age
It turns out to be important that you stop smoking as early as possible. The younger you are, the more likely it is that your body will recover well. If you stop around the age of 35, you will have the same chance of death later in life as someone who has never smoked before.
If you don’t stop until you’re 50, that chance is much greater. Quitting smoking before you’re 50 halves the chance of dying from it. So it is better to leave that cigarette as soon as possible!
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