Breathe Easier: Smoking and Lung Health

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the United States. Smoking causes you to be more prone to infection because your lungs can’t clean themselves, and it turns normal cells into cancer cells. Cigarette smoking kills 1,300 people each day in our country, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). More than 50 of the 7,000 chemicals in cigarette smoke are carcinogens, including:

  • Arsenic.
  • Formaldehyde.
  • Acetone.
  • Ammonia.
  • Carbon monoxide.
  • Hydrogen cyanide.

Cigarette smoking remains the single greatest preventable cause of illness and death in the world.

Within 20 minutes after you smoke your last cigarette, your body begins a series of changes that continues for years. After quitting:

  • 20 minutes: Your heart rate drops.
  • 2 weeks-3 months: Your heart attack risk begins to drop and your lung function begins to improve.
  • 1-9 months: Your coughing and shortness of breath decrease.
  • 1 year: Your added risk of coronary heart disease is half that of a smoker.
  • 5-15 years: Your stroke risk is reduced to that of a nonsmoker.
  • 10 years: Your lung cancer death rate is about half that of a smoker. Your risk of cancers of the mouth, throat, esophagus, bladder, kidney and pancreas decreases.
  • 15 years: Your risk of coronary heart disease is back to that of a nonsmoker.

Cone Health offers a free program called QuitSmart to help you quit smoking permanently. The QuitSmart program, offered in Greensboro, High Point, Burlington and Reidsville, uses a “warm chicken” approach instead of encouraging people to quit “cold turkey.” Rather than quitting smoking all at once, the approach slowly weans your body off of nicotine by switching to cigarette brands with less and less nicotine. Over the course of 2 weeks, you will gradually reduce the amount of nicotine to zero. The QuitSmart program takes about 4 weeks to complete, and you do not need to have already quit smoking before you attend. The success of this program is based on the support individuals find in each other. You are not alone in your efforts to quit smoking and others going through the same thing are there to help you, encourage you and keep you accountable to live a more healthy lifestyle.

Spokesperson Background:

Bethany Murray is an occupational therapist and a certified QuitSmart facilitator with Cone Health's Outpatient Rehabilitation Center at Reidsville. She received a Bachelor of Applied Science in occupational therapy from Eastern Michigan University in 1999 and has been working for Cone Health since 2008.

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