This post was originally published in November 2013, and has been updated.
I recently showed you how cutting out alcohol improves your health. So while you’re on track with your healthier lifestyle, I wanted to follow it up with another bad habit that offers an immediate return on your health investment upon quitting: smoking. As for the benefits? They’re pretty convincing. Who doesn’t want better sex and sounder sleep? And though many people have (thankfully) already quit, even your casual puffs can have a big impact.
1. You’ll have better sex
A 2011 study found that men had stronger erections after quitting smoking – so you can benefit from your partner’s sexual improvements if you help them quit. For you, the improved blood flow to your lungs and enhanced oxygen levels in your blood will boost your energy levels. And for those trying to conceive, a June 2016 study found that smokers also had a higher percentage of sperm DNA damage.
2. Your gut health will improve
The dreaded post-cessation weight gain has a lot to do with how smoking impacts your gut health. Researchers found that when a person stops smoking, the diversity of bacterial strains in their intestines shifts, resembling the gut flora found in obese people. They hypothesized that it was the change in the gut that caused weight gain, and not a change in caloric intake — and they were right. What this means is that taking actions to heal your intestinal flora before you quit will help you avoid weight gain and cravings.
3. Put the axe to arthritis
Believe it or not, even a few cigarettes a day can more than double your risk of rheumatoid arthritis. This risk decreases as soon as you give up smoking and improves as each year passes.
Smoking has been shown to be the culprit behind more than a third of cases of rheumatoid arthritis-based aches and pains. It’s one more reason to quit the tobacco habit, not to mention that once you do you’re more likely to throw on your running shoes and exercise too.
4. Get back your beauty sleep
Another reason to quit? You’ll sleep like a baby. Researchers found that nearly 12 percent of current smokers have trouble falling asleep, 11 percent wake in the night and 10 percent wake too early in the morning. In fact, they found that for each cigarette smoked during the day, the total sleep time decreased by more than one minute.
I recently wrote on the consequences of a lack of sleep, so if you find yourself tossing and turning, this is one lifestyle habit that can make a big difference in your snooze time.
5. Cutting out nicotine could reduce your risk of developing diabetes
A study out of the California State Polytechnic University found that adding nicotine to human blood samples raised levels of hemoglobin A1C, which indicates higher blood sugar content. To put it simply, the study suggests that smoking can make diabetes a lot worse. The study also implies that non-diabetic smokers may have a higher change of developing diabetes.
6. You’ll mend your heart
While some people find they trade cigarettes for sweets, one study shows that, regardless of post-cessation weight gain, you’ll still see your risk of cardiovascular disease drop. In fact, postmenpoausal women who quit smoking within the past three years had a 26 percent lower risk of developing heart disease compared with women who continued smoking.
7. You’ll look younger
Quitting increases the oxygen and nutrients sent to your skin cells, leaving you with smoother, more supple skin. And while your skin will look younger, you’re not just turning back the clock on your appearance. Quitting smoking before the age of 40 decreases your risk of premature death by 90 percent. This number increases to 97 percent if you quit before the age of 30.
Have you recently quit smoking? We want to hear about how great you feel in the comment section below.