Health: Kick the Habit, Save Your Life

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It only takes just 20 minutes for a smoker to experience the health benefits after kicking the habit. Within six hours their blood pressure will decrease, and in 24 hours their body’s blood oxygen level will see an increase as carbon monoxide levels drop.

In the next 24 hours, the nicotine levels will also drop, causing an ex-smoker to crave a cigarette again – but if they can push through it, they will see a marked improvement on their blood circulation after 12 weeks. In a year, their lung capacity will also be increased, and their risk of heart disease drops by a whopping 50 per cent after 5 years.

This year, in conjunction with the recently concluded World No-Tobacco Day themed ‘Commit to Quit’, medical consultants from Sunway Medical Centre highlighted the health benefits that smokers can observe in almost all organs, especially the heart and lungs as well as dispel misconceptions they may have on quitting the habit.

The Grim Realities of Smoking

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), tobacco accounts for over 7.2 million deaths every year including exposure to second-hand smoke, with the number projected to increase in the coming years. According to the National Institute of Health, approximately five million Malaysian adults aged 15 years and above are currently smokers.

Dr Mohd Kamal bin Mohd Arshad, Cardiologist from Sunway Medical Centre explains that the chemicals in tobacco smoke causes plaques to build upon the wall of the arteries.

“Over time, the plaque hardens and narrows the arteries, limiting the flow of oxygen-rich blood to one’s organs and can lead to chest pain, high blood pressure, heart attack, or even death,” he said in a media statement.

Furthermore, smoking doesn’t just affect one’s heart but it also has an impact on their lungs.

Dr Kow Ken Siong, Respiralogist (Internal Medicine) from Sunway Medical Centre shares said: “Out of the 4,000 chemicals present in cigarette smoke, 69 with hundreds more are carcinogenic that can trigger an inflammatory reaction in the lungs, specifically the airways and alveoli. The inflammation can then lead to tissue damage in one’s lungs and airways, resulting in a less efficient gas exchange.”

Smoking harms nearly every organ in the body, especially the heart and lungs, and reduces the health of smokers in general. However, quitting can be daunting, especially when smokers have already developed a dependency on it. Many fear that it would take a long time to see improvements in their health and well-being upon quitting smoking, but the timeline for seeing real health benefits is faster than most people realise.

As Dr Kamal simply puts it, it is never too late to stop smoking.

“You can reduce the risk of heart disease just 24 hours of putting out your last cigarette. Yes, withdrawals from smoking will occur but most people who do stop smoking have testified to feeling happier and better overall – with some encouragement and support, it can be done.”

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