The official blog of the Lung Institute.
Bring Your Lungs Back to Life
Smoking is the leading cause of death in the United States, handedly. According to the CDC, the leading cause of death is heart disease, which is quickly followed by cancer and then lung disease. In total, the three causes led to 1,345,191 deaths in 2013. All three of these conditions have one thing in common, the cause is usually smoking. So the question is posed, why do people smoke? They continue to smoke out of habit and addiction, as is commonly known. However, that is not why people start smoking. In fact, the body treats smoke as a poison when it enters the body for the first time. People usually get sick, some even have a physical reaction and vomit. This begs an even better question, why do people start smoking in the first place? For whatever the reason, the damage to the lungs from cigarette smoke is well-documented. However, some may be surprised to hear about the ability of the amazing lungs to recover, even if permanent damage has already been done, once smoking cessation begins.
Gary Corriston is the Director of Digital Media at the Lung Institute and started smoking when he was 16 years old. His friends smoked and through both active and passive peer pressure, he started. “At first, smoking made me physically ill,” Gary noted. He kept at it though. Eventually Gary became addicted. “I smoked on again and off again for 22 years. Sometimes, I would get up to two packs a day.”
At this heightened rate of smoking, Gary was flooding his lungs with a detrimental amount of carcinogens. Also, his wallet was getting attacked by his cigarette purchases as well. Let’s say that Gary averaged one pack a day given his varied usage. At this rate he would have smoked 8,030 packs of cigarettes, which equates to $68,656.50 at today’s average pack cost in New Jersey, where Gary is from. He smoked about 160,000 cigarettes in all.
Gary quit smoking almost exactly 10 years ago! “I had to put down my dog who had a tumor. I quit the next day.” Now he runs 5k races, something he wouldn’t have even tried before because he knew that his smoking would have made it impossible. Additionally, this week Gary took a pulmonary function test and the result was that his lungs operate at 104% of the average male his age. With all we know about the damages caused by smoking, how could this be possible? The lungs are amazing and can actually sometimes rebound after smoking.
Here is a breakdown of what happens to your lungs after you quit smoking:
- First day – Your blood pressure will drop along with your heart rate. Carbon monoxide levels will also drop to the body’s normal levels.
- First month – Your lungs will become more efficient in the ability to process oxygen, causing your circulation to improve.
- First 9 months – The cilia in your lungs start to function properly again which reduces your risk of lung infection. Also, coughing and shortness of breath should vastly decrease.
- Ten years later – Your risk of lung, mouth, throat, bladder, kidney and pancreas cancer drops dramatically.
Although this is very encouraging information, permanent damage is usually caused by smoking, and quitting does not erase the risk of developing a lung-related disease. Gary isn’t out of the woods yet. Many people that quit smoking still develop lung disease. If you are one of those people, the Lung Institute may be able to help. Working alongside Gary, a team of patient coordinators are waiting for you to call (800) 729-3065 and find out how you can start your path to breathing easier.