Monday, January 2, 2012

Half the Risk of Lung Cancer - Erasing the damage of smoking

January 2 1997 - January 2 2012 (15 years)
No - not a life span - a quit span.  On January 2, 1997 at about 1pm, I smoked my last cigarette.

Interesting facts from the Behavioral Risk Factor Survey
  • in 1997 19.1% of Americans were every day smokers (21% in NC, a tobacco state where I lived then and now)
  • in 2010 12.3% of Americans were every day smokers (14.3% in NC)
  • in 1997 52.1 % had NEVER smoked and more recently, in 2010 that number was up to 56.7%

The body begins to heal itself within hours of the last puff.  It is the smoke - the chemicals in the smoke- that cause the damage to the lungs, arteries, cells, tissues (including skin) and organs of the body.  Nicotine acutely increases heart rate and pulse, but it does not cause the long term damage - it is the smoke.  This is why I am so consistent and adamant in encouraging you to avoid tobacco smoke from any source.  Think about it - anything that is on fire creates smoke and only a fool would stand there and suck it in.

Many of the health risks associated with active or past smoking can be alleviated completely within just a few years of quitting.  For instance, the heart attack risk can be reduced to that of someone who never smoked (other risk factors for heart disease may remain [weight, genetics, saturated fat diet]).  Lungs can heal if emphysema and chronic bronchitis have not set in.  Quitting smoking only protects the undamaged tissue.  (trust me smokers, you want to keep as much healthy lung tissue as possible - it is NEVER too late to quit.

The marker that has been on my radar- the one I was most looking forward to has finally arrived.  At 15 years after quitting smoking, my risk of 'smoking related' lung cancer is half that of someone who is currently smoking.  It is not as though I never smoked, and of course, I could get non smoking related lung cancer or any cancer for that matter, but by gosh, I did something hard and important 15 years ago and I will embrace this 50% reduction and say to you with conviction
"quitting smoking is the most important thing I have EVER done"
Ironically - I have been looking forward to this day for some time and as a tobacco treatment specialist (my credentials expire this year) I often talk about the health benefits.  So today when I went to find these links for you - I saw that my risk for lung cancer 'death' was half that of a current smoker 5 years ago and my risk of heart disease is NOW the same as a non smoker (as I said above). Whatever the actual years are - my conviction stands!

Here are some resources for you today.
Quitting smoking resource
Time line for healing 
Another time line with additional resources

No comments: