This month sees an annual stop smoking campaign from the NHS and Department of Health. As a former smoker, I know how difficult it can be to consider quitting.
I smoked about 30 a day for many years and tried to quit several times before succeeding ten years ago.
I know from experience that change can cause anxiety. We often tell ourselves that we need to be absolutely sure that we are ready before trying something new. Especially something as difficult as quitting smoking.
But, in reality, you will always be a little worried and ambivalent about whether you want to stop. Or you try to put it off until later, telling yourself it’s not the right time – I did that for years.
However, I also know the enormous benefits personally. It’s not just physical. The psychological boost you get from breaking free from addiction is immense.
In October, the NHS and Department of Health hold an annual stop smoking campaign. The campaign is called Stoptober
It’s a clear demonstration that you can take control of your life and how, when you put your mind to it, you can make positive change.
Plus, it’s never too late to stop, even for older people.
A few years ago I wrote a book about quitting smoking and was surprised to discover that the benefits begin almost the moment you quit smoking. I found it very useful as a motivational tool to combat doubts or nagging desires.
There’s plenty of help online if you search, but to jump-start your motivation, here’s the timeline I discovered:
After 20 minutes: Your blood pressure and heart rate will begin to return to normal levels.
Two o’clock: Heart rate and blood pressure are now back to normal levels. The peripheral circulations, the small blood vessels that supply your skin, arms and legs, begin to improve. More oxygen begins to reach your fingers and toes.
You may be surprised to learn that it’s also peak time for nicotine cravings. How many times have you gone two hours without smoking? This is as bad as it gets.
Eight hours: Nicotine levels in the body have already decreased by 90 percent.
12 hours: The blood begins to rid itself of the highly toxic chemical carbon monoxide, which binds very strongly to red blood cells and reduces the amount of oxygen they are able to carry.
24 hours: It’s only been a day and already the risk of having a heart attack is decreasing. Smokers are 70% more likely to have a heart attack than non-smokers, but the risk is now starting to decrease.
After just 20 minutes of quitting smoking, our blood pressure and heart rate will begin to return to normal levels.
48 hours: Smoking kills the cells involved in smell and taste, but after two days they start to grow back, meaning you’ll enjoy your food more.
72 hours: The nicotine has now left the body. As a result, people start experiencing more frequent withdrawals – but remember two things.
First, each withdrawal is slight; and second, from now on it gets easier.
That’s because every day from now on, your nicotine receptors, which respond to the stimulation of a cigarette and keep you addicted, are gradually being destroyed because you’re no longer using them.
Four days: Some people may start coughing. It seems strange when you don’t smoke, but in fact coughing is caused by the lungs cleaning themselves and trying to get rid of all the debris that has been there for years. It’s irritating but will only last a week or two.
Five to eight days: The body continues to repair itself. On average, people experience three withdrawal sensations per day, lasting up to three minutes each. This is a sign that the body is returning to normal.
Ten days: At this point, the average person only reports two withdrawal sensations per day.
Blood circulation to the teeth and gums has returned to normal. Smile!
Two weeks: Exercise tolerance and fitness are now significantly improved. People notice that their breathing is better. The skin also begins to improve around this time.
As a former smoker, Dr. Max knows how difficult it can be to consider quitting. He smoked about 30 times a day for many years and tried to quit several times before succeeding a decade ago.
Four weeks: As the cilia, or small hairs, in your lungs continue to grow back, the risk of lung infections decreases.
Three months: The average lifespan of a red blood cell is three months, so at this point, after quitting smoking, any red blood cells that have been damaged by the carbon monoxide found in cigarette smoke have been replaced by new healthy red blood cells.
Your lung capacity increases by up to 30 percent.
Nine months: The smoker’s lungs are repaired and the cilia are now fully functioning.
One year: One year after quitting smoking, the risk of heart disease decreased by 50 percent compared to a smoker.
Five years: The risk of having a stroke has now returned to the level of someone who has never smoked. The risk of dying from lung, esophagus, throat and mouth cancer is significantly reduced.
Ten years: The risk of dying from lung cancer is now half that of a smoker.
13 years: The average smoker who lives to age 75 has six fewer teeth than a non-smoker, but 13 years after quitting, the risk of tooth loss is the same as someone who has never smoked .
15 years: The risk of heart disease has returned to the level of someone who has never smoked. The risk of pancreatic cancer also fell to that of a person who had never smoked.
So, just a few minutes after quitting smoking, the body already begins to repair itself. I find it amazing that the body can do this – and all we have to do is allow it to continue.
MICK HAS A RIGHT TO MONEY AND CHILDREN
Legacy: Jagger with his daughters Georgia May (left) and Elizabeth. He hinted that he was going to leave his fortune to charity rather than to his children.
Mick Jagger has hinted he will leave his $500 million fortune to charity rather than his children. Although some might think this means, I think it’s a very wise parenting decision.
One might imagine that benefiting from wealth and privilege would be an infallible guarantee of happiness.
Yet, time and time again, I have seen children of wealthy people burdened by their parents’ wealth and success, with no purpose in life.
When I worked in the addiction field, a significant number of my patients were children of wealthy families, whose inheritance was like a millstone around their neck.
It’s not just Jagger who is worried: American billionaire Warren Buffett says he will give his children “enough money to do anything, but not enough to do nothing.”
He’s right: instilling a work ethic in your children is a fundamental role of a parent.
Around 800,000 women die worldwide because of “gender bias” in healthcare, according to a global study.
Such prejudice is true in many countries around the world. But let’s not forget that in the UK, women live four years longer than men.
Men are more likely to die at work, by suicide or by cancer.
Sir Ian McKellen has branded the trigger warnings attached to his latest performance “ridiculous”.
Signs in the theater warn against loud noise during the performance, a “reference to bereavement” and, bizarrely, a “reference to smoking”.
I tend to agree. The idea of triggers comes from PTSD, where something can suddenly cause distress symptoms when a trauma is relived.
But the reality is that the things that actually trigger symptoms in people with disabling PTSD are often obscure and idiosyncratic. A smell, a sound, a sentence.
The idea that simply bringing up topics or questioning their ideas could trigger their symptoms is laughable.
If you need to be warned that someone is going to talk about smoking in a theater, how can you expect to even walk down the street?
DR MAX PRESCRIBED…
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