Smoking can do terrible damage to your lungs, heart, and blood circulation. The dangers signs and warning are everywhere. Of course, to quit smoking is very difficult and the first question a smoker asks is: How soon will I recover? How long will it take for the damage to become undone?
A study just released by the American Heart Association (AHA) indicates that the time interval is much longer than anyone anticipated. Indeed, the shocking results show that it actually takes 16 years for a quit-smokers’ cardiovascular risk to return to levels of an original non-smoker.
Smoking: Study Results
8,700 participants volunteered for the Framingham Heart Study, to evaluate cardiovascular risk in former, current, and non-smokers.
The results showed that the smokers’ group had a 70% rate for cardiovascular disease. This heart disease presents as a heart attack, stroke, or congestive heart failure. The study defined a ‘heavy smoker’ as smoking a pack a day for 20 or more years.
Another finding is that smokers’ who quit, reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease by 38 percent within 5 years. According to the CDC, (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States for those over 65.
In addition, the study found that smokers’ health only matched the non- smokers baseline 16 years after they quit. Therefore, the AHA recommends that smokers who quit stay in contact with their doctors and arrange for regular check ups.
Smoking: Make An Action Plan To Quit
The AHA has put together a stop-smoking 3-step plan for current smokers.
1. Put together a plan to quit.
Make a list of reasons for quitting and how that will benefit you and your family. A list increases your chances of sticking with the program.
For example, why do you smoke, what triggers your need for a cigarette? List family or friends that can be your support group.
You can print out a plan or fill it out online at smokefree.gov. Another government resource is smokefree 60+, which helps people quit smoking and provides other information about how to get started.
2. You need a support group.
Research data shows that getting formal help increases chances of quitting.
A support group or counselor can help. If you can’t find anyone willing to act as a support resource, the National Cancer Institute has a free text program (smokefreeTXT). Register online and they will send you 3-5 customized tips and motivational messages every day. This should help you stay on track.
3. Talk Is Good, But also consider Meds.
Medications under a doctor’s supervision can boost your chances of success. Your doctor may prescribe FDA-approved medication, such as a nicotine patch or varenicline (Chantix), in conjunction with counseling.
This protocol can double or even triple chances of quitting compared to using no help, according to the AHA.
In many cases, free counseling and free medication can be obtained from the quit line (800-QUIT-NOW), which automatically connects to your state’s hotline.