Quitting smoking is one of the best actions you can ever take for your health. Your lungs start to heal the moment you are no longer exposed to toxic smoke from cigarettes because the lungs are resilient. After a few weeks’ time, your lungs can clear sputum well, and your breathing ability is improved after that.
Even though damaged lungs may not achieve full recovery, stopping smoking is the only way to prevent further damage. Eventually, your chances of developing lung cancer decrease with time.
What Happens When Smoking
When smoking, a person inhales chemicals present in cigarette smoke, which inflames and irritates the lung’s lining. Many hours after one has smoked, the tiny hairs known as cilia that line the lungs experience a decrease in their brush-like movement. This results in temporary paralysis of the cilia, which causes them to become less efficient in cleaning out dust, mucus, or other substances from the airways.
How the Lungs Heal
A number of temporary inflammatory changes that affect the lungs are reversible when you quit smoking. In actual sense, swelling on the lung surface and airways subsides, and less mucus is produced by the lung cells. Fresh growth of the cilia, which are well adapted to clearing mucus secretions, is observed.
A few days after quitting, you experience less shortness of breath when exercising. This is partly due to exhaling (breathing out) carbon monoxide out of the blood. The carbon monoxide present in cigarette smoke inhibits the intake of oxygen into the blood cells. It does so by binding to red blood cells instead of oxygen. This explains the shortness of breath experienced by smokers.
Additionally, as the lung lining and airways inflammation decreases, you notice improved breathing. This is because your airways lining is no longer exposed to cigarette smoke irritants. The reduced swelling creates more room for air to flow as it passes the airways.
Under certain circumstances, you may cough a lot during the first weeks after you stop smoking. However, do not panic because it indicates that your lungs are once again active and the fine hairs along the passageways are now able to transport mucus secretions from lungs towards the throat where they can be coughed out.
The Health Benefit off Quitting Smoking
Quitting smoking ensures your chances of getting lung cancer are lowered, though the cancer risk never goes away. For example, after more than ten years of quitting, your odds of getting lung cancer are reduced by half in comparison to that of a smoker. But you are more likely to die from lung cancer than someone who has never smoked their entire life.
Reports from the National Cancer Institute show that smoke has at least 69 cancer-causing agents. This means as a smoker you have a higher likelihood of getting lung cancer than a non-smoker, and the risk increases as your years of smoking increase.
The Next Steps to Take
Now that you acknowledge that quitting smoking can improve many harmful effects on your lungs, you may be convinced better to stop smoking. You can consult your doctor on ways to achieve this. There are several avenues you can explore when quitting:
- Patches or sprays
- Nicotine gums
- Prescription medications
It’s Never Too Late to Stop Smoking
In the event that your smoking is not successfully stopped the first time, it is never too late to attempt again. Even when you have already developed chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), the destroyed lung tissue can be replaced. But you can prevent further deterioration of your condition by quitting smoking. And even when diagnosed with lung cancer, stopping smoking in the early stages can minimize the chances of the cancer recurring after successful treatment.