Smoke may be great for grilling and haunted houses, but you don’t have to be the Marlboro man to know what kind of damage smoking can do to your lungs.
Pumping smoke down your airways makes you eight years older—putting you at risk for lung diseases like emphysema, cancer and bronchitis. Just two months of being smoke-free can make you one year younger. After five years of smoke-free living, a former smoker can regain seven of the eight years lost to smoking.
The Science of Quitting Smoking
We’re a society that doesn’t like quitters—not in sports, school or food-eating contests. So it’s against our nature to give up something we’ve started—even cigs.
One of the toughest parts of quitting is that cigarettes are both psychologically and physiologically addictive. From the physiological end, it seems the release of dopamine—a naturally occurring substance in your body that dulls pain and causes pleasure—is triggered when you’re smoking.
You get used to the elevated dopamine levels, so when you don’t smoke, you crave the cig with no explanation as to why (it’s almost like when a pregnant woman craves pickles). Luckily, those dopamine levels don’t stay elevated all the time, and if you can quit, you can switch your dopamine level back to normal.
Psychologically, smoking becomes a behavioral addiction—you have a cig with a beer, after dinner or sex. And you get used to the feeling of picking something up and putting it in your mouth.
The hardest part of quitting comes the first week. You feel cravings and are sluggish. You start producing and expelling a lot of gunk from the lining of your lungs. But all that subsides after a few weeks, if you can push through.
Quitting and Weight Gain
One of the biggest concerns with quitting smoking is the potential weight gain. On average (and without the walking), men gain 10 pounds after quitting, and women about eight.
Six months later, the typical woman is just two pounds heavier than when she was smoking, but those women and men who use a plan of walking and weight lifting are actually an average of six pounds lighter than the day they quit.
Though the dangers of smoking far outweigh the dangers of this additional weight, you can prevent weight gain during the quitting process.
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