Lung cancer, chronic bronchitis, high blood pressure or myocardial infarction. These are just some of the many diseases that are associated with tobacco, causing the death of more than 60,000 people every year in Spain. Yes, the body suffers (a lot) from the presence of nicotine within it. Despite this, there is always time to repair much of the damage caused by cigarettes. And from the first day, the body notices the benefits of quitting smoking.
“A smoker who quits tobacco with appropriate treatment (pharmacological and psychological) presents few symptoms related to lack of nicotine,” he states. Carlos Rabade, coordinator of the Tobacco Addiction Area of the Spanish Society of Pulmonology and Thoracic Surgery. Otherwise, the expert warns that quitting this habit without proper support can lead to frequent withdrawal signs such as anxiety, irritability, insomnia, sweating or headache, which causes many people to relapse.
These are symptoms that appear in the first days, but the urge to smoke may persist for four to eight weeks. For this reason, Rábade highlights that, in the face of a serious abandonment attempt, “it is important to offer that health support.” Of course, although it must take several months for the body to get used to the new lifestyle, “You need to not smoke for a year to be considered an ex-smoker.”, indicates the pulmonologist.
The most immediate effects of quitting this habit are reflected in the cardiovascular system after 20 minutes.. “Blood pressure and heart rate normalize, as well as body temperature,” he points out. Juan Pablo de Torresco-director of the Pulmonology Department of the Cancer Area of the Cancer Center Clínica Universidad de Navarra.
Between 24 and 48 hours, “carbon monoxide is significantly reduced (a toxic gas generated by the combustion of tobacco), relieving certain symptoms such as headache, asthenia or sleep disorders,” says Rábade. Likewise, de Torres points out that, after this brief period, “the possibility of suffering a cerebrovascular or cardiovascular event, fundamentally a heart attack or angina, decreases.” Besides, there is a significant improvement in smell and taste.
On the other hand, those patients who, despite having chronic respiratory diseases such as asthma or COPD, have continued smoking and decide to quit, the first effects are also immediate: “It reduces inflammation at the bronchial level,” comments the CUN specialist.
What happens a week, a month and a year after quitting smoking?
A week after quitting tobacco, even though blood pressure and heart rate normalize, improves sleep or fatigue. Carbon monoxide levels continue to decline. After a month, Rábade assures that the appearance of the skin improves and exercise tolerance is greater.
According to the American Cancer Society, cough and shortness of breath decrease in the first nine months and, after a year, the risk of coronary heart disease drops to half that of a person who continues to smoke, while the rate of heart attack also decreases drastically. “The risk of respiratory infections, asthma attacks or acute coronary events is reduced,” declares Rábade.
According to the American institution, the risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus and bladder is reduced by half five years after quitting smoking. Regarding strokes, the probability of suffering one equals the level of a non-smoker after two to five years.
Psychological support, equally important
Nicotine is the substance that generates dependence on tobacco. As mentioned, its physical effects after stopping its consumption are perceived between the first four and eight weeks. “As doctors, we offer help with different types of treatments that help you quit smoking to cope with physical dependence,” de Torres clarifies. However, it is also essential take into account the psychological support that the patient needs. In this regard, the specialist points out that sometimes this part “is more difficult to handle” and remembers that there are numerous support strategies that the person can resort to throughout the entire smoking cessation process.