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It is never too late to stop smoking

I have smoked a pack of cigarettes daily for the past 20 years. If I quit now, does it really matter for my health since I have been smoking for so long?

It is never too late to quit smoking. Within 24 hours of stopping smoking, your blood pressure and pulse may decrease; within 48 hours, carbon monoxide levels in your bloodstream are no longer elevated.

In two to 12 weeks, your circulation and breathing may improve, such that your physical stamina improves. By 12 weeks of quitting smoking, your brain receptors change to diminish the craving for nicotine, adapting to become similar to the brain of a non-smoker.

After one year, your risk of heart disease may decrease by 30 percent to 50 percent. By 10 years after quitting smoking, your risk of lung cancer may be half that of a smoker’s. By 15 years after quitting, your risk of heart disease and stroke is no different than a nonsmoker.

With these benefits in mind, plan a quit date and work toward it. Make family members, friends and coworkers aware you are planning to quit and ask for their support. Gradually increase your physical activity, as you may realize within two to three weeks after quitting smoking that you have greater physical stamina.

There will likely be challenges ahead – prepare for them by identifying situations that trigger cravings and ways to cope with them. If you continue smoking occasionally, consider smoking with your opposite hand to change your routine. Discard items associated with smoking (cigarettes, pipes, ashtrays, lighters, matches). Change your routines associated with the enjoyment of smoking. Wash your clothes, coats and linens to eliminate the smell of smoke.

You may call 1-800-GET-QUIT for free individual counseling and additional ideas by phone. Whether you’ve been smoking for two or 20 years, it’s never too late to allow your body to recover and prevent further damage from smoking.

Dr. Jay Fawver practices mind-body medicine with Parkview Physicians Group. “Ask the Doctor” is a health column by doctors from Parkview Physicians Group. Send questions to Terri Richardson at The Journal Gazette, 600 W. Main St., Fort Wayne, IN 46802, or email trich@jg.net. Please put “Ask the Doctor” for the subject line.

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