Two Ways to Heal after Quitting Smoking
Is quitting smoking on your list of New Years Resolutions? If so, you may want to also add in two more new habits to tackle, which may in turn help you heal faster and regain good health.
Resolution #1 – Quit Smoking
There are many benefits to quitting smoking, no matter what your age. Your risk of heart disease and stroke drop significantly. So does the risk of many types of cancer, including lung, mouth, throat, bladder, cervical and pancreatic.
When you quit smoking, within even a few hours your heart rate and blood pressure can return to normal. Inflammation in the airways decreases over the next few weeks and months, says Norman Edelman, chief medical officer of the American Lung Association. After 10-15 years of smoking cessation, your risk of lung cancer returns to that of a nonsmoker (depending on certain factors, such as genetics and length of time that someone smoked).
Take that step today, even before the New Year starts. Call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669) - a free telephone support service that can help people who want to stop smoking or using tobacco. Callers are routed to their state quitlines, which offer several types of services, including a quit plan, the latest information about medications that may be helpful, and tips for coping with nicotine withdrawal.
Resolution #2 – Eat More Plants
Researchers at Johns Hopkins have found that adopting a plant-based diet after quitting smoking could help speed the healing of smoke-damaged lungs. The ten-year study involving 650 adults found that two foods in particular seem to be most beneficial – tomatoes and apples.
People who ate an average of more than two tomatoes or more than three portions of fresh fruit a day had a slower decline in lung function than those who ate less than one tomato or less than one portion of fruit. The rich source of antioxidants is thought to be most beneficial for respiratory health.
"The findings support the need for dietary recommendations, especially for people [with a history of smoking] at risk of developing respiratory diseases such as COPD [chronic obstructive pulmonary disease],” said lead author Vanessa Garcia-Larsen, an assistant professor of international health.
"This study fits into a growing body of research demonstrating the health benefits of consuming a diet rich in plant foods," said Dr. Ann Tilley, a pulmonologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. "This type of diet has global benefits for our health, and I advise all my patients to incorporate more plant foods into their diets."
Resolution #3 – Exercise
Yes, the first few months after quitting smoking are hard. And you likely may find it difficult to catch your breath. But it may be to your benefit to start an exercise program suited to your individual needs.
New research from St George’s University of London has found that moderate intensity exercise seems to reduce the severity of nicotine withdrawal symptoms. Mice who completed a wheel running exercise displayed a significant reduction in withdrawal symptoms over sedentary mice in the study published in the British Journal of Pharmacology.
Exercise seems to work by increasing activation of a type of brain receptor called α7 nicotinic acetylcholine, which is a target of nicotine.
Vanessa Garcia-Larsen et al. Dietary antioxidants and 10-year lung function decline in adults from the ECRHS survey. European Respiratory Journal 2017 50: 1602286; DOI: 10.1183/13993003.02286-2016
Helen Keyworth, Alexis Bailey et al. Wheel running during chronic nicotine exposure is protective against mecamylamine-precipitated withdrawal and upregulates hippocampal α7 nACh receptors in mice. British Journal of Pharmacology, 2017; DOI: 10.1111/bph.14068