When a person quits smoking their body goes through a number of changes. These changes can begin almost immediately, and will have a drastic impact on the overall quality of that person’s life:
Within 20 minutes of quitting the body begins to normalize blood pressure and pulse. Circulation to hands and feet allow for better temperature regulation.
Bronchial tubes begin to move again, which moves debris and germs out of the lungs and prevents infections from forming. Smoke in the lungs prevents this movement.
After eight hours without smoking, the body begins to purge the carbon dioxide that smoking builds up. It roughly halves the amount of carbon dioxide in the bloodstream. Oxygen levels are thus able to return to normal, as the carbon dioxide takes up space that your blood would normally use for needed oxygen. By returning to normal oxygen/carbon dioxide levels blood and tissue begin to function normally again.
After one full day without smoking, the nicotine in the body is almost entirely expunged. Veins and arteries become less constricted as more oxygen is funneled to the heart, increasing its overall health and making it work less to do its job. After a mere 24 hours, the risk of heart attack is reduced significantly by these changes.
After two days the senses begin to return to normal. Dulled by the smoke, senses such as taste and smell begin to heal after 48 hours, causing often-noticeable increases to their efficiency.
It is at this point that nerve endings damaged by smoking and carbon dioxide begin to regrow.
48 hours is also when most people begin to feel withdrawal symptoms in earnest. Physical effects like hunger, sleepiness or headaches begin to show up, as does psychological symptoms like irritability and depression.
Three days after the last cigarette and breathing become easier. Bronchial tubes in the lungs begin to relax and open up again, making the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide flow better. Lung capacity is also increased at this time.
5 to 10 Days
In the five to ten-day range the body’s overall health and functionality increase dramatically. This is also the time frame for an increased chance of quitting for good: After one full week without smoking, smokers are nine times more likely to succeed if they have successfully abstained during the week.
After ten days the average former smoker will be down to two episodes a day for their cravings. Averages are tough to apply to the individual, but this is a far cry from the cravings during the early days of quitting.
2 to 12 Weeks
By the two week mark, there is a noticeable improvement to circulation and oxygenation in the body. Decreased stiffness and increased mobility, especially in the extremities, are often marked at this stage. The lungs also increase their capacity by 30% at this point.
After a full month without smoking, the lungs begin to regrow tiny fibers that help keep the lungs clear of mucus and infection. Increased energy levels and breathing capacity are other notable effects after a month.
It becomes easier to exert yourself physically at this stage as well. The lungs have repaired themselves enough to easier be able to handle the increased workload that comes from exercise.
The most severe symptoms of withdrawal will have run their course by this point for most, though they can still persist in diminished form for a while.
3 to 9 Months
After three months the fertility rate of females is increased while the chance of smoking-related birth defects drops.
At six months of no smoking, the airways of the lungs are in much better shape and far less inflamed, resulting in less mucus and phlegm buildup and, consequently, less coughing these substances up. Energy levels are often much higher after six months, and many people report that they can handle stress much better and without the feeling that they need a cigarette.
Considerable improvements to breathing quality and lung capacity are gained after a year of being smoke-free. Energy levels are up and physical exertion is much easier, resulting in less wheezing and coughing. Lungs are generally in much better shape after a year, having healed much of the damage done to them by smoking.
Three years after quitting the chance of heart attack evens out to that of a non-smoker. After this, the damage done to the circulatory system has largely been repaired, meaning there are no more smoking-related factors in heart attack chances. This is a meaningful milestone, especially for anyone at a high risk of heart attack already.
After five years of not smoking the chance of lung cancer drops by half. After this long without smoke, the lungs are functioning much better and the process that leads to lung cancer is simply less likely to happen.
Many cancer risks are halved by this point, including cervical cancer and mouth cancer.
At the ten year mark, the pre-cancerous cells left in the lungs from damage done by smoking are all but gone, replaced with healthy cells. This means that the odds of lung cancer are equal to that of a non-smoker. The chances of getting other smoking-related cancers also drops off, with cancer in the mouth, esophagus, kidneys, pancreas, and bladder all reduced significantly.
At the fifteen year mark, the body is almost out of the woods. The natural processes of cell replacement have all but eliminated the damaged cells from smoking. Chances of heart disease, stroke, and other ailments become that of the average non-smoker in the same demographic.
After two decades the body has recovered as much as it can from smoking. Average health risks still apply, but the chances of increased danger are all but over with.
My Hope for You
The increased short and long term health benefits of quitting are well documented in many studies and there’s no doubt the quality of your life will improve significantly.
The only thing I hope for you is to keep reminding yourself to celebrate these wins and do not allow the lies of nicotine withdrawal to fail you yet again.
“A day of being smoke-free is a day win.” Keep celebrating and count your blessings 🙂 🙂