If you smoke, quitting is one of the best things you can do for your health and well-being. It’s a huge accomplishment that deserves to be recognized.
When you quit smoking, you’ll probably have more energy, a longer life expectancy, and better mental health than when you used to smoke.
When it comes to quitting smoking, one of the most important considerations for many of us is the health benefits it will bring to our lungs. However, you may still be unsure about the effects of stopping smoking on our lungs. Perhaps you’re wondering if our lungs can truly recover from smoking. Or, in other words, can lungs heal after smoking?
Effects of Smoking on the Lungs
When considering if your long will heal after smoking, the first thing to consider is what happens to our lungs when we smoke.
When you smoke:
- your lungs’ airways and little air sacs, known as alveoli, are damaged.
- At the same time, you’re weakening your lungs’ ability to defend themselves, making them more vulnerable to future harm.
- Long-term, this diminishes lung capacity6 and influences lung health, increasing your risk of diseases like lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
What is COPD?
COPD refers to a collection of progressive lung diseases that make it difficult to expel air from the lungs. Emphysema and chronic bronchitis are two of the most prevalent, and they commonly occur simultaneously.
How do Lungs Heal After Smoking?
When smokers stop smoking, they can reverse some of the short-term inflammatory alterations in their lungs.
- Swelling on the lungs’ and airways’ surfaces decreases, and lung cells produce less mucus. New cilia can form, which are more effective at clearing mucus discharges.
- Former smokers will discover that they have reduced shortness of breath when they exercise in the days to weeks following stopping. It’s unclear why this occurs, although it may have something to do with removing carbon monoxide from the blood. Carbon monoxide, which is contained in cigarette smoke, can obstruct oxygen transfer by binding to red blood cells in place of oxygen. This could explain why some smokers feel out of breath.
- Another reason former smokers have better breathing is that inflammation in the lining of their airways lessens due to the lining no longer being exposed to the chemical irritants in smoke. As a result of the lessened swelling, more air may move through the passages.
- Former smokers may cough more in the first few weeks after quitting than they did when they smoked. This, however, is a good thing since it signifies the cilia in the lungs have reactivated, and these fine hairs may now transfer excess mucus discharges from the lungs into the airways and toward the throat, where they can be coughed up. Coughing removes the mucus from the lungs.
- He said that stopping smoking has another health benefit: it lowers the chance of lung cancer. Former smokers who go longer without smoking have a lower risk of developing this cancer, albeit the risk never totally goes away. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a former smoker’s chances of acquiring lung cancer are about half that of a smoker ten years after stopping. However, an ex-smoker has a higher risk of lung cancer than someone who has never smoked.
Although the body is capable of healing some of the damage caused by smoking to lung cells and tissues, not all of the harm is reversible.
Damage to the lungs and a decline in lung function are directly proportional to the number of packs of cigarettes smoked per day multiplied by the number of years smoked, a metric known as “pack years.” The long years in the pack, the more probable the lungs may be permanently damaged.
- Although the lungs have protection against injury, long-term exposure to the toxic compounds inhaled from cigarettes reduces these defenses. As a result of the inflammation and scarring caused by smoking, the lungs lose flexibility and cannot exchange oxygen adequately.
- Smoking for a long time can cause emphysema, a type of chronic obstructive lung disease (COPD). The alveoli, which are responsible for exchanging oxygen and carbon dioxide in the lungs, are destroyed in this illness. Shortness of breath and trouble breathing are symptoms of COPD. When a person’s lungs are damaged to the extent of emphysema, the airway walls lose their shape and elasticity, making it difficult to push all of the air out. These lung alterations are irreversible and permanent.
Scientists have now discovered that the damage to airways connected to emphysema begins a few years after a person begins smoking. However, symptoms of the condition may not appear for another 20 to 30 years.
Ways to Improve your Lungs After Smoking
It’s critical to look after your lungs. While many of us are aware of the importance of remaining in shape and taking care of our bodies, we often overlook our lungs.
Neglected your lung health for so long, and you’re unsure how to improve it? Fortunately, you can do several easy things to improve your lung health. Among them are:
- Toss out your cigarettes
- Keeping pollution out of the air and diseases out of your lungs
- Dietary balance
Getting Addiction Treatment in the San Francisco Bay Area
Many long-term smokers have probably told you that quitting now is pointless because the damage to their lungs has already been done. This, however, is not the case.
While some lung damage is irreversible, some are not. Stopping smoking will protect your lungs from additional damage. Alternatively, if you already have COPD, quitting smoking will help to decrease the disease’s progression.
This means that, regardless of how long you’ve been smoking, the best thing you can do to enhance your health as a smoker is to quit. Quitting remains the best form of therapy you can provide to your lungs for a long-term basis.