It’s never too late to quit smoking. Though it is difficult to fight cravings, giving up tobacco can have a huge positive impact on quality of life. In fact, the body already begins to feel the benefits as short as 20 minutes after the last cigarette – and continues to see more benefits with every succeeding day.
Smoking raises blood pressure, causes respiratory problems, and increases the risk for diabetes, heart attack, and cancer. Quitting is the best decision anyone can make for their health.
According to the American Cancer Society, the body begins to recover rather rapidly once you stop smoking. After 20 minutes, blood pressure and heart rate will drop. After a few days, carbon monoxide levels return to normal. Within two weeks, lung function and blood circulation also improve, and “smoker’s cough” can go away.
After just one to two years of being cigarette-free, risk for cancer and heart attacks are cut in half. With proper diet and exercise, the body will even be as healthy as someone who has never smoked at all.
Better sex and reproductive health
Smoking can damage the nerve cells in male sex organs and make it difficult for men to get and maintain an erection. For women, it narrows the blood cells in the genital area, which can decrease sensation and pleasure.
For couples who are planning to have kids, smoking is linked to poor sperm count and quality, and can affect menstrual cycles. It will take longer to get pregnant, and the risk for miscarriage can be higher.
So, quitting smoking can help make sex more fun – and make it easier to plan for a family and prepare for a healthy baby.
Since cigarettes affect lung function, smokers often find it difficult to breathe and can start wheezing or get easily tired after any physical activity. But according to the NHS, within just two weeks of quitting, circulation improves to the point that it’s possible to walk or run without feeling out of breath.
Radiant, younger-looking skin
According to the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology, smoking can damage the skin and make a person look much older: dry and dull skin, early wrinkles, uneven skin pigmentation, and sagging around the eyes and jawline.
That’s because cigarettes lower collagen production, reduce the flow of oxygen and nutrients to the skin, increases melanin (which leads to dark spots and discoloration), and releases free radicals and toxins into the blood.
After quitting, complexion improves—and risk for other smoking-related skin conditions such as acne, eczema and skin cancer drops dramatically.
Savor food and scents
Smoking affects one’s sense of taste and smell, so one of the immediate benefits of quitting smoking is that food – even everyday, familiar dishes – suddenly becomes much more appealing.
Save more money
Cigarettes aren’t cheap and quitting means that one’s money can now go to other things—whether it’s a savings account, or a healthier hobby. In fact, experts encourage people who are trying to quit to put whatever they save in a piggy bank or jar, and then use this to reward themselves after celebrating a year of being nicotine-free.
No ifs or butts
It’s not easy to deal with nicotine cravings or change routines or rituals that used to be centered around cigarettes – such as enjoying a smoke after a meal, or social smoking with friends. However, the benefits of quitting far outweigh the initial discomfort and effort to change.