She should realize the health benefits of smoking cessation (SC) almost immediately! As the effect of nicotine wears off, just 15-20 minutes after her last cigarette, her heart rate and blood pressure should begin to fall.1,2Other health benefits, some within a year others longer, soon follow. 3,4 Between 2-12 weeks after SC, your patient may notice an improvement in her breathing and pulmonary function tests.
Between 1-9 months, the cilia in the lungs should begin to regenerate and regain normal function, allowing her to adequately clear mucus and bacteria with a decrease in cough and shortness of breath.
At 1 year, the risk of cardiovascular disease (eg, myocardial infarction, stroke) falls by one-half.
At 5 years, the risk of mouth, throat, esophagus, and bladder cancer also drops by one-half.
It takes 10 years for the risk of lung cancer to drop by one-half, and 15 years for it to approach that of non-smokers asymptotically. 4
Fun fact: Did you know that in hypertensive patients who smoke, the blood pressure lowering effect of beta-blockers may be partly abolished by tobacco smoking, whereas alpha-blockers may maintain their antihypertensive effects? 5
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- Omvik P. How smoking affects blood pressure. Blood Press. 1996;5:71–77. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9162447
- Mahmud A, Feely J. Effect of smoking on arterial stiffness and pulse pressure amplification. Hypertension. 2003;41(1):183-187. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12511550
- US Surgeon General’s Report, 1990, pp. 193, 194, 196, 285, 323
- US Surgeon General’s Report, 2010 and World Health Organization. Tobacco Control: Reversal of Risk After Quitting Smoking. IARC Handbooks of Cancer Prevention, Vol. 11. 2007, p. 341.
- Trap-Jensen. Effects of smoking on the heart and peripheral circulation. Am Heart J 1988;115:263-7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3276115
Contributed by Felicia Hsu, Medical Student, Harvard Medical School