Smoking is a difficult habit to break, but it is possible and those who can successfully stop themselves from reaching for another cigarette should be celebrated. Nicotine is an addictive substance because it trains the brain to release a hormone called dopamine which is known for its mood-boosting role. Whenever a person tries to quit, they usually experience physical symptoms, including coughing, body pains, and mild fever. These symptoms are only temporary and will disappear just as easily as they appeared.
Although the number of smokers has been steadily trending down since the ‘90s, there are still a lot of people who pick up tobacco products for the first time. According to the latest statistics, about 11% of all people aged 14 and above smoked daily in 2019 in Australia.
Smoking leads to short-term and long-term illnesses. Sometimes, it causes irreparable damages to the body, especially the lungs. A current or former heavy smoker may experience chronic bronchitis and emphysema which are permanent and cannot be reversed.
For most, however, there is still time to heal and not experience the consequences of smoking.
Can You Heal Your Lungs?
Your lungs are extraordinary. They can actually heal themselves even after going through years of damage due to cigarette consumption.
However, you can help your lungs become better. Those who suffer from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a long-term and incurable illness that is a result of smoking, should look into physiotherapy. The illness is linked with recurring airway limitation and inflammation which results in trouble breathing.
With physio, the patient will learn and practice breathing techniques that will improve symptoms of COPD. The therapist can also provide advice on how to carry out day-to-day activities without exacerbating a patient’s condition.
The treatment has proven to reduce breathlessness and overall improve a patient’s quality of life.
In addition, people who quit smoking should increase their intake of food known to reduce inflammation. The lungs are prone to inflammation that leads to difficulty breathing.
Although there is still not enough evidence to confirm that eating anti-inflammatory foods can improve inflammation in the longs, there have been a handful of studies that have shown promising results. Some known anti-inflammatory foods include blueberries, spinach, kale, olives, and almonds.
Can You Cleanse Your Lungs?
Your lungs are self-cleaning, too! You do not need to worry about traces of tobacco in your system. Your carbon monoxide levels, for example, will immediately return to normal after you quit.
The only thing you have to worry about, and would want to get rid of, is mucus. Mucus, unfortunately, will persist after you stop the habit. Coughing is the simplest way you can eject mucus out of your body. The American Lung Association also recommends drinking warm fluids, particularly green tea, which has anti-inflammatory properties and can thin mucus. There is also evidence that steaming, or inhaling warm vapour, can reduce mucus and inflammation of the airways.
What About Your Heart?
Your heart also suffers damages due to cigarette smoking. The smoke produced from burning cigarettes has more than 7,000 chemicals, many of which interrupt the natural process of sending oxygen-rich blood to the heart and other parts of the body. Instead of oxygen, the blood becomes contaminated with harmful chemicals from smoke and causes damages to the heart. This leads to cardiovascular disease.
According to research, it takes the heart up to 15 years before it can fully recover from the damages caused by cigarette smoking.
Exercise has been proven to decrease one’s risk and even reverse the effects of cardiovascular disease. In one study, participants who experienced a heart attack reduced their likelihood of dying after joining a regular exercise program.
The American Heart Association says that adults should engage in physical activity for at least 30 minutes a day and five days a week to improve heart health. Any type of physical activity, whether walking or playing sports, can reduce a person’s risk of cardiovascular disease.
However, those who are already experiencing any symptoms should consult their doctor before starting a strenuous exercise program.
The best way to protect your lungs and your heart from damages caused by cigarette smoking is to not start the habit in the first place. Once you start, it will be difficult to quit. You may also suffer from the consequences of smoking on your health.
However, it is never too late for anyone to stop smoking. Those who want to improve their health but are having trouble quitting can do so gradually in order to minimise symptoms of withdrawal. They can also seek help from a counselor or a doctor for professional advice.