Deciding to stop smoking is without question one of the healthiest choices you can make. After all, the damage smoking does to your heart and lungs can be fatal. Your heart and lungs will begin to grow stronger within weeks of your last cigarette. There are also things you can do every day to increase the overall health of your lungs and heart. These simple steps can help to reduce the risk of lung cancer, heart disease and other ailments.
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Exercise on a daily basis. Cardiovascular exercises are necessary for a strong and healthy heart. These exercises also cause you to breathe in more clean air, thus giving your lungs a much-needed workout. Swimming, jogging or even brisk walking for 30 to 60 consecutive minutes each day will help to repair your lungs and heart over time. Because smoking can break down your endurance, you may have difficulty exercising for 30 straight minutes at first. Keep at it and your endurance, much like your heart and lungs, will grow stronger over time.
Perform breathing exercises. Just as lifting weights will increase the strength of your arms, breathing exercises can repair and strengthen your lungs after years of smoking. Breathing exercises are easy and can be done anywhere. Breathe in very slowly using either your nose or mouth for 10 seconds. At the end of the 10 seconds, your lungs should be just about completely filled. If they filled before this, you breathed in too quickly. After this 10 seconds, hold your breath for another 10 seconds, then slowly exhale through a straw. It should take at least 10 seconds to fully empty your lungs. Perform this exercise three to five times a day.
Eat three servings of both fruits and vegetables every day. It is common knowledge that fruits and vegetables are a big part of a healthy diet. You may not know, however, that these foods can also help to repair your lungs. The Office of Dietary Supplements states that Vitamin A, found in many fruits and vegetables, can reduce the risk of lung cancer (see Resources below).
Know which foods and drinks should be eliminated from your diet. Stay away from caffeine as, much like nicotine, it causes your heart to work harder than it should. Eating fattening foods such as fast food, processed food and other items that are high in calories, fat and sugar can lead to heart disease. Substitute your unhealthy snacks (cookies, crisps, etc.) with apples, oranges, carrots and other fruits and vegetables.
Purchase an air purifier for your home. Your home is full of dust, dirt and other particles that are not good for your lungs. An air purifier will allow you to breathe cleaner air into your lungs, something that is important for everybody and especially important for ex-smokers.
Tips and warnings
- Visit your doctor once a year (at least) for a checkup. You can still be at risk for lung cancer, heart attack and other diseases and ailments even after you quit smoking.
- Ask your doctor about taking a daily supplement. This isn't necessary for all ex-smokers. Some, though, are directed to take a daily "heart healthy" vitamin by their doctors as a way to build a healthy heart.
- Beware of weight gain once you stop smoking. Many ex-smokers turn to junk food as a way to deal with cravings. This, of course, could lead to heart problems in the future. Monitor your weight carefully in the first 4 to 6 weeks after you quit smoking and make any necessary changes if you notice that you have gained weight.
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