What Happens To Your Body When You Quit Smoking: A Timeline
Are you still smoking in 2017? It’s time to butt out of this nasty habit for good. Quitting smoking is one of the best possible things you can do for your health and for the health of those around you. The following is a 10-year timeline of what happens to your body when you quit smoking.
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After 20 Minutes
Your health improves almost immediately after your last cigarette. Within just 20 minutes of that last puff, your heart rate begins to slow and return to a normal pace.
After Two Hours
Two hours after your last cigarette, your blood pressure and heart rate continue to drop to near normal levels. Circulation improves and you may feel some warmth coming back into your hands and feet. Withdrawal symptoms also start in this two-hour time frame. Signs of nicotine withdrawal include:
- Tension, anxiety or frustration
- Intense cravings
- Increased appetite
- Trouble sleeping or excessive drowsiness
After 12 Hours
Carbon monoxide is a by-product of cigarette smoke, which you inhale when you puff. That carbon monoxide stays in your body, which is the cause of serious cardiovascular problems in people who smoke. After you have been smoke-free for 12 hours, the levels of carbon monoxide built up in your bloodstream start to decrease, which in turn increases your blood oxygen levels to near normal proportions. With improved blood oxygen levels you will feel more energetic and alert.
After 24 Hours
The risk of heart attack for smokers is 70% higher than for people who don’t smoke. In just 24 hours after you quit, your risk of having a heart attack will already have dropped. In just 48 hours, your sense of taste and smell will start to return as your nerve endings will have started to grow back.
After Three Days
Once you reach the three-day mark, you’ve reached a milestone because at this point, all of the nicotine will have left your body. You may not feel like celebrating though because this is also when the nicotine withdrawal symptoms typically peak. Some symptoms you may experience are:
- Emotional symptoms (anxiety, irritability)
To combat the mental challenges of quitting, find ways to reward yourself for your accomplishments so far. Take the money normally spent on cigarettes and treat yourself to something.
After Two to Three Weeks
After just two weeks, you’ll be able to do physical activities without feeling nauseated or out of breath. Also at the two-week mark, your withdrawal symptoms will begin to subside. After three weeks, your body starts to regenerate itself; your circulation will get better and your lungs will start to feel clearer. Three weeks is when your lung tissue begins to receive regular blood flow again, and you will finally start to breathe easier.
After 30 Days
About one month after you stop smoking, the tiny hair-like cilia inside your lungs start to come back to life. While you were smoking, the tar from the cigarettes coated the cilia and prevented them from working properly. Day 30 is when those cilia begin to repair and you should notice a dramatic decrease in shortness of breath and coughing.
After 100 to 365 Days
You should continue to improve over the next 10 to 12 months. Your breathing will be easier and smoother, your coughing will subside and you will be able to do more aerobic-type exercising without shortness of breath. Even for heavy smokers, after the first few months all symptoms of withdrawal have ended.
After One Year
Congratulations! You’ve been smoke free for a whole year. One year after you stop smoking, your risk for developing fatal heart disease is reduced by 50% compared to other people who still smoke. There are many positive effects of quitting smoking, and the one year mark is an important milestone. Your health will only improve from this point forward.
After Five Years
Smokers have a much higher risk of stroke because of narrowed blood vessels caused by breathing in carbon monoxide in cigarette smoke. After five years without a cigarette, your risk of having a stroke is reduced to the same level as a non-smoker. Now that is progress!
After 10 Years
Smokers are at a much higher risk of developing a long list of cancers, with lung cancer being by far the most dangerous and the most common. Ninety per cent of deaths by lung cancer are attributed to smoking and secondhand smoke. One of the most dramatic benefits of quitting smoking is that after being smoke-free for 10 years, your risk of throat, mouth, bladder, pancreatic and kidney cancers decrease significantly.
Quitting smoking today extends your expected life span by fourteen years longer than someone who smokes. The long-term benefits of not smoking are inspirational. As a non-smoker you will be able to enjoy a longer life while remaining active and feeling great.
Wolfson, Elijah. (2013). “What Happens When You Quit Smoking?” on Healthline. http://www.healthline.com/health-slideshow/quit-smoking-timeline#14. Internet. Retrieved 26 November 2014.
Shaw, Gina. (2014). “Surviving Without Smoke” on WebMD. http://www.healthline.com/health-slideshow/quit-smoking-timeline#14. Internet. Retrieved 26 November 2014.