As any smoker will attest, giving up smoking is more than tough. Rectifying a long-term habit does not happen overnight and in fact, takes several attempts before a smoker is able to kick the butt for good. With the level of commitment and determination it takes, you may be compelled to ask, ‘Why should I give up smoking after all these years? With the damage it has already done, will quitting be of any use?’ The short answer is yes.

It takes 20 minutes for your body to benefit, after you stub the last cigarette out. Studies have shown that people who give up on smoking can reduce the risk of dying from a smoking related disease. Here’s a roundup on the time frame, and how that last puff changes your body:

Short-Term Benefits

20 minutes: Less than 20 minutes after you quit smoking, your body already starts to appreciate the decision by lowering your pulse rate and blood pressure, and improves circulation to your hands and feet.

8 hours:  By now, your blood has begun to recover from the effects of nicotine, reducing its levels to as low as 6.25 percent, as compared to a whopping 93 percent on a regular smoking day.

12 hours: Carbon monoxide, which is released as a part of burning tobacco, can bind to blood cells and reduce their capacity to carry oxygen throughout the body. In just 12 hours after you quit, the levels of carbon monoxide drop in your body, thereby improving your blood oxygen levels.

24 hours: Believe it or not, but just one day after you’ve stopped smoking, you have already reduced your risk of heart attack and other cardiovascular problems by almost 40 percent.

48 hours: Not life-threatening or self-limiting, but having deadened senses, especially taste and smell, is one of the outcomes of regular smoking. Two days in a row without a puff, and your nerve endings have started to regrow, restoring your ability to taste and smell appropriately.

2 to 8 weeks: By this time, all the residual nicotine would have left your body, and you may encounter withdrawal symptoms such as headache, nausea, cramps, anxiety and irritability. The good part is that your circulation has improved dramatically in addition to enhanced lung function and better stamina.

3 to 9 months: Compared to when you were smoking, your lung function has improved by about 10 percent and your lungs have begun to repair themselves. Your phlegm production has decreased and so is your coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath. This reduces the risk of both infection and inflammation.

Long-Term Benefits

1 year: So you’ve already been nicotine-free for a year, congratulations! Imagine how happy your body must be. Once you’ve marked a year without a smoke, you are at 50% lower risk of developing cardiovascular diseases.

5 years: Your risk of suffering from a stroke, lung, mouth or esophagus cancer is halved, as compared to when you were smoking.

15 years: Your body has completely healed from all the ill-effects of smoking, bringing your risk of several diseases to same level as those of non-smokers.

This elaborate list of health benefits should be reason enough for you to give up on the cancer stick. Make the commitment today, and trash that packet of cigarettes in the bin.

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