Happy New Year! Have you thought about quitting smoking and living a tobacco-free life? If so, congratulations, this is the first step toward a healthier you.

Quitting may feel challenging and even impossible at times, but it is not. In fact, many people do make it and are quite proud of their quitting. Don’t give up trying because you haven’t been successful in the past. Most people make multiple quit attempts before they finally stop smoking for good.

According to the American Cancer Society, quitting smoking before the age of 40 reduces the risk of dying from smoking-related diseases by about 90%. Quitting while you’re younger will reduce your health risks more, but quitting at any age can give back years and greatly benefit your health. Life expectancy for nonsmokers is at least 10 years longer than that of a smoker.

The withdrawal symptoms of quitting smoking can be intense for some. This is because smoking affects every system in your body. When you quit, your body needs to adjust to not having nicotine. It’s important to remember these side effects are only temporary, and the benefits outweigh the withdrawal symptoms.

As soon as you quit smoking, your body starts to recover from the damage caused. Once your immune system is no longer exposed to the chemicals in cigarettes, it will become stronger, and you will be less likely to get sick during the winter.

Quitting smoking is the best anti-aging lotion and can protect your skin from premature aging and wrinkling. After a few weeks without cigarettes, your skin and smile will be brighter.

The leading cause of heart attacks and heart disease is smoking. Quitting can lower your blood pressure and heart rate almost immediately. Your risk of a heart attack declines within 24 hours. Your heart will also not have to work as hard; it will be able to move the blood around your body more easily and lower the cholesterol in your blood. Another effect of quitting smoking is your blood will become less likely to form dangerous blood clots.

Lung damage is not reversible, that is why it is important to quit smoking. Within two weeks of quitting, you might notice it’s easier to walk up the stairs because you may be less short of breath, and you’ll have more energy. Breathing easier is one of the first benefits of quitting that you’ll realize.

The benefits don’t stop there. Believe it or not, quitting can improve your sexual health. Not only does it make you more kissable. If you’re a woman, your estrogen levels will gradually return to normal after you quit smoking. If you plan to have children someday, quitting will increase your chances of a healthy pregnancy in the future. Men, you can lower your chances of erectile dysfunction and improve your chances of having a healthy sexual life by stopping tobacco use.

These are just a few of the benefits of quitting smoking for good, there are many more. For more information on quit-smoking resources near you, contact the Tobacco Cessation program at Rutland Regional Medical Center at 747-3768 or call 1-800-QUIT-NOW.

This week’s Health Talk was written by Sarah Cosgrove, respiratory therapist and tobacco treatment specialist for Rutland Regional Medical Center.

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