I was drawn in by a new study that identifies the specific reason smoking weakens bone, until my colleague — a former smoker — asked “Why not motivate people by telling them how quickly their bodies begin to recover when they quit smoking? It might make a bigger impression rather than going on and on about what will happen if they don’t!”
She’s right! We’ve known about the dangers of smoking since the 1964 report “Smoking and Health: Report of the Advisory Committee to the Surgeon General” and there’s been strong evidence for almost 20 years that smoking is a risk factor for osteoporosis.
But are you aware of how quickly damage can be reversed? In the case of bone, fracture risk appears to decline after 10 years of nonsmoking — not such a long time if you think about it in terms of your full lifespan.
As for the rest of your body, the experts at the American Cancer Society show that the benefits of quitting smoking start a mere 20 minutes after quitting. Here’s their timeline for health improvements.
When smokers quit – What are the benefits over time? (from the American Cancer Society)
20 minutes after quitting: Your heart rate and blood pressure drop. (Effect of smoking on arterial stiffness and pulse pressure amplification, Mahmud A, Feely J. Hypertension. 2003:41:183)
12 hours after quitting: The carbon monoxide level in your blood drops to normal. (US Surgeon General’s Report, 1988, p. 202)
2 weeks to 3 months after quitting: Your circulation improves and your lung function increases. (US Surgeon General’s Report, 1990, pp.193, 194,196, 285, 323)
1 to 9 months after quitting: Coughing and shortness of breath decrease; cilia (tiny hair-like structures that move mucus out of the lungs) start to regain normal function in the lungs, increasing the ability to handle mucus, clean the lungs, and reduce the risk of infection. (US Surgeon General’s Report, 1990, pp. 285-287, 304)
1 year after quitting: The excess risk of coronary heart disease is half that of a continuing smoker’s. (US Surgeon General’s Report, 2010, p. 359)
5 years after quitting: Risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, and bladder are cut in half. Cervical cancer risk falls to that of a non-smoker. Stroke risk can fall to that of a non-smoker after 2-5 years. (A Report of the Surgeon General: How Tobacco Smoke Causes Disease - The Biology and Behavioral Basis for Smoking-Attributable Disease Fact Sheet, 2010; and Tobacco Control: Reversal of Risk After Quitting Smoking. IARC Handbooks of Cancer Prevention, Vol. 11. 2007, p 341)
10 years after quitting: The risk of dying from lung cancer is about half that of a person who is still smoking. The risk of cancer of the larynx (voice box) and pancreas decreases. (A Report of the Surgeon General: How Tobacco Smoke Causes Disease - The Biology and Behavioral Basis for Smoking-Attributable Disease Fact Sheet, 2010; and US Surgeon General’s Report, 1990, pp. vi, 155, 165)
15 years after quitting: The risk of coronary heart disease is that of a non-smoker’s. (Tobacco Control: Reversal of Risk After Quitting Smoking. IARC Handbooks of Cancer Prevention, Vol. 11. 2007. p 11)
If you’re feeling motivated the American Cancer Society also offers tips for how to quit smoking. I encourage you to take a look.
The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism February 1, 2007 vol. 92 no. 2 428-429 doi: 10.1210/jc.2006-2651 http://jcem.endojournals.org/content/92/2/428.full (accessed 09.09.12)
American Cancer Society report. http://www.cancer.org/Healthy/StayAwayfromTobacco/GuidetoQuittingSmoking/guide-to-quitting-smoking-benefits(accessed 09.09.12)
We created the Better Bones blog as our forum to express opinions and educate the public about natural means of supporting and improving bone health and overall wellness. As part of this forum, we sometimes discuss medical issues and medications, and their effects on bone health in general. However, we cannot advise readers about specific medical issues in this forum. If you wish to obtain advice from Susan E. Brown, PhD, about your specific bone health and nutritional concerns, please visit our Consultations page. Other specific medical questions should be referred to your healthcare provider.