Dr. Anjali Bhandarkar, RWJ Medical Associates

Experts from Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital are ready to answer readers’ questions. Send your questions to askthedoc@rwjbh.org.

Will quitting smoking significantly lower my health risks?

It is universally understood that smoking greatly increases your risk of developing smoking-related diseases, such as emphysema, chronic bronchitis, stroke, heart disease, osteoporosis and cancers of the lung, esophagus, vocal cords, mouth, throat, kidney, bladder, liver, pancreas, stomach, cervix, colon and rectum, as well as some types of leukemia. It has also been proven that it is never too late to quit smoking, because even for longtime smokers, quitting will significantly lower health risks.

Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. This is because smoking damages almost every organ in your body. Still, as mentioned previously, it is never too late to reverse the effects of smoking. In fact, studies have shown that just 20 minutes after you quit smoking, you will begin to experience health benefits.

Your heart rate and blood pressure will begin to return to normal almost immediately. Within another few hours your levels of carbon monoxide begin to decline, allowing your blood to carry more oxygen. Over the course of the following weeks, your circulation will improve, and cardiac function also begins to improve.

After one year, your risk of heart disease and stroke will be cut in half! Within just five years of stopping smoking, your risk for many of the cancers mentioned above declines and approaches the same level of risk as someone who has never smoked. By year 15, your risk of emphysema and bronchitis also will have decreased drastically.

Aside from decreasing your risk of disease, you will also feel better. Your sense of smell will return to normal and food will taste better. Also, you will be able to participate in everyday activities without feeling winded. By quitting smoking you will add healthier years to your life.
—Dr. Anjali Bhandarkar, RWJ Medical Associates

This content is intended to encourage a healthy lifestyles. For medical advice and treatment, see a physician. Concerned about your health? Send your questions to askthedoc@rwjbh.org.