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Five Amazing Things that Happen When You Stop Smoking

by Jen Simpson January 3, 2018 Drug Savings

Get Help Kicking the Habit

It’s estimated that 70% of smokers want to quit, and about half of them try each year — often around New Year's resolutions. But only 6% are successful. Quitting smoking is hard. The American Cancer Society recommends that those who want to improve their chances of success take advantage of various support systems, such as:

  • Online and In-Person Quitting Groups

  • Smoking Secession Phone Lines

  • Counseling

  • Support from Family and Friends

  • Guide Books

  • Prescription Medications to Reduce Cravings

  • Nicotine Replacement Products

“By quitting – even for 1 day,” contends the American Cancer Society, “smokers will be taking an important step toward a healthier life and reducing their cancer risk.” Of course, kicking the habit for good is best, but some amazing things happen when you stop smoking, even if you’re only able to do so for a short period of time.

1) Within 20 Minutes, Your Heart Rate Drops

Nicotine is stimulant that increases heart rates by about 10-20 beats per minute. Considering the average person’s heart beats about once per second, that’s a sizable increase. Tachycardia (the medical term for having a fast heart rate, is classified as having a rate above 100 beats per minute) essentially reduces the effectiveness of the heart because it’s unable to fill fully before it pumps the blood back out. According to the American Heart Association, severe cases may lead to cardiac arrest and unconsciousness, but even mild-to-moderate tachycardia is associated with fainting, lightheadedness, fatigue, and shortness of breath. Although nicotine can stay in the body for up to three days after your body absorbs it, the impact is lessened drastically over time. The CDC reports your heart rate will begin to decline just 20 minutes after having a cigarette.

2) Within 2 Hours, Your Circulation Improves

In as few as two hours, your heart rate and blood pressure may totally normalize. This means that your heart will be more effective at pumping blood throughout your body. If you’re normally the kind of person who feels cold in your hands or feet, the increased circulation will make you feel warmer.

3) Within 12 Hours, Your Carbon Monoxide Levels Normalize

Every aspect of your body relies on oxygen, and your red blood cells normally do a good job of carrying it throughout the body. However, smoking brings carbon monoxide into the body, and this binds to the red blood cells and forms carboxyhemoglobin (COHb), preventing oxygen from being transported. Someone who smokes a pack a day may have 3% to 6% COHb level, while two packs bumps it up to between 6% and 10%. A person who smokes three packs can have a COHb level of up to 20%. Although rare, it has the potential to result in carbon monoxide poisoning—the same thing that happens to people who die in fires. Even lesser COHb saturation levels can result in noticeable symptoms, such as increased heart rate, decreased capacity for exercise, headaches, visual distortions, nausea, confusion, weakness, sleepiness, and flu-like symptoms. The good news is, within 12 hours of your last cigarette, your carbon monoxide levels will normalize according to the CDC.

4) Within 24 Hours, Your Heart Attack Risk Declines

Smoking may increase your risk of having a heart attack by as much as 70%, and it does take a significant amount of time before your risk declines to normal levels. However, just 24 hours after you put out your last cigarette, your risk starts to drop. After about a year, your risk is cut in half, and you may be at an average risk level after eight.

5) Within 48 Hours, Your Sense of Smell and Taste Begin to Return

Your ability to taste and smell things are closely interlinked, and smoking inhibits both. On the one hand, vascularization causes the taste buds to become flatter or lose their shape, which impacts their ability to perceive flavors. On the other hand, inhaling toxic fumes from cigarettes damages the nerves and reduces the ability to smell. With scent reduced, the ability to taste different things and appreciate the intensity of flavors diminishes as well. “After 48 hours, your ability to taste and smell improves,” according to Everyday Health. “After 72 hours, it's easier to breathe,” too.

Your Health Improves Over Time

While this page focuses on what happens when you quit smoking right away, the benefits increase over time. According to the CDC, the following milestones apply:

2 Weeks to 3 Months- Heart attack risk decreases further, and lung function improves.

1 to 9 Months- Coughing and incidents of shortness of breath decrease.

1 Year- Heart attack risk is cut in half.

5 Years- Stroke risk reduces. Between 5-15 years after quitting, your risk is cut in half.

10 Years- Risk of dying of lung cancer is cut in half. Risk of other cancers, such as mouth, throat, esophagus, kidney, bladder, and pancreases, also decrease.

RefillWise Can Help

The RefillWise prescription discount card works on medications like Chantix and Zyban, which are often prescribed by physicians to help people quit smoking. It also works on nicotine replacement medications, such as Nicotrol. If you don’t have insurance or your insurance doesn’t cover smoking cessation medications, talk with your physician about which medications are right for you. Then, sign up for your free RefillWise card to reduce your prescription costs and earn cash back to reward yourself for your success.

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