Science Says This Is How Long It Takes Your Body to Reverse the Damage of Smoking

According to a study, your body takes nearly two decades to bounce back.

African american man breaking a cigarette because he is done smoking
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You obviously know that smoking is really, really bad for you. According to the 2014 Surgeon General's Report on Smoking & Health, smoking causes one out of every four cardiovascular disease-related deaths in the United States, making it one of the leading causes of preventable death in the country. Still, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2017, 14 of every 100 U.S. adults smoked cigarettes, which equates to an estimated 34.3 million people. Luckily, you can reverse the effects of smoking by putting out your last cigarette today. But how long exactly does it take to reverse the damage of smoking after you quit? Well, according to research presented at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2018, it might take longer for your body to bounce back than you'd think.

When researchers analyzed the lifetime smoking history of 8,700 people, they found that 70 percent of cardiovascular disease events—such as stroke, heart attack, and heart failure—occurred among those who had smoked a pack a day for 20 years, regardless of whether they were current or former smokers. The results also showed that subjects' risk of cardiovascular disease decreased by 38 percent in the first five years after they quit.

So how long did it take for smokers' health to return back to normal entirely? Nearly two decades.

"Cardiovascular disease risk remains elevated for up to 16 years for former smokers compared to people who have never smoked," Meredith Duncan, a PhD student at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and author of the study, said in a statement. "The bottom line is if you smoke, now is a very good time to quit."

The good news? There are other, more immediate benefits to quitting smoking. Within two weeks of quitting, the National Cancer Institute notes that your bones are stronger, your lung function is improved, and your heart attack risk has already started to drop. Best of all, while your cravings may be intense for the first few days, they should go away almost entirely within a month, once your brain gets used to not being fed nicotine.

So now that you know how long it takes to reverse the damage of smoking, go ahead and bite the bullet! And if you feel like you've tried everything and still can't quit, check out The Single Best Way to Stop Smoking You've Never Tried.

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