It is no secret that smoking is harmful to the body, causing damage to the lungs and other organs. It is also common knowledge that the best thing a regular smoker can do is quit the habit. The question is, what actually happens to the body when you quit smoking?
Well, a lot of things happen and the longer you don’t smoke, the more positive changes occur. The good news is that even people who have been smoking for a long time can experience positive health benefits when they quit smoking. While people who are addicted to smoking are likely to experience some withdrawal symptoms when they first give it up, the benefits over the long term will definitely outweigh the short-term discomfort.
We take a look at the recovery process to explore exactly what happens to the body when you quit smoking.
Healthy changes begin occurring in the body very quickly. After only 8 hours, your carbon monoxide levels will begin to stabilise and become normal once more. Cigarette smoke swaps the oxygen in your blood for carbon monoxide, meaning the different areas and tissues around your body receive a reduced amount of oxygen. Quitting smoking results in a normal amount of oxygen reaching the areas it needs to.
Additionally, your pulse and blood pressure lower to a normal rhythm and your lungs will begin to work better. Smoke impacts your bronchial tubes by demobilising little fibres that typically act like filters. When there is smoke in the tubes, they are not able to filter debris and bacteria and this increases the likelihood of infection in the lungs.
After only a single day of not smoking, the risk of heart attack is significantly reduced. Your veins and arteries will be freer and therefore able to transport oxygen around the body more effectively. The level of nicotine in your blood will also have reduced to an insignificant level.
By 2 days, the damage that has been done to your nerve endings will be beginning to repair. You are also likely to be getting your sense of taste and smell back. Both of these senses become dulled by smoking.
The one-week mark is a big milestone for people who are quitting smoking. Your lungs should have relaxed and your bronchial tubes cleared, meaning it should be much easier to breathe. In fact, the amount of air you can get in your lungs should have improved by the day three point.
While you should be experiencing the physical benefits of quitting smoking, one week is important from a mental standpoint. Something seems to click after this time period and people begin to think that it is actually possible to quit smoking. The statistics make it clear that getting through the first week is vital to success, with individuals being 9 times more likely to quit for good if they can get through that first week.
Your circulation should have improved significantly after two weeks without a cigarette. Your lungs should also be in better condition and the combination of these two things should make it easier to walk and conduct everyday tasks that may have been difficult previously.
After a month of no smoking, your energy should be starting to return. You should notice that you feel better and have the strength and vitality to get through your day. Your lung fibres are continuing to grow and strengthen, meaning your lungs continue to get healthier. This is likely to mean that you will experience less discomfort when engaging in physical activity as you will be able to breathe better and your sinuses should be clearer.
Lung capacity improves with every passing week and you should be noticing the improvements at 3 months. This is also an important milestone for females, whose fertility is likely to be improved after three months of no smoking.
At six months, the desire to smoke is hopefully waning. Many people find that this is the time they start to notice that they don’t instantly want a cigarette when things go wrong or they’re feeling stressed. This is extremely important for progress as the mental element is what makes quitting smoking so difficult.
In a physical sense, the inflammation of the airways has been significantly reduced at this point. Individuals should be experiencing less phlegm and coughing.
After an entire year of no smoking, your lungs will be thanking you. They are likely to be in much better condition with improve function and capacity.
By 5 years of no smoking, your risk of serious health conditions has significantly decreased. You are much less likely to experience a heart attack, with the damage caused by smoking actually having been reversed by this stage. The risk of developing lung cancer is also minimised by 50%.
If you can last 10 years without smoking, the risk of lung cancer decreases even further. You will now be at the same risk for developing lung cancer as an individual who does not smoke.
The risk of developing a range of other illnesses associated with smoking, such as mouth, oesophagus or pancreatic cancer, is also reduced.
When it has been 15 years since you quit smoking, your health will be much better overall. Your organs will be functioning better and you should be experiencing the benefits of better health. You will also have managed to reverse a lot of the damage caused by smoking, with the risk of having a stroke being back the same as a person who does not smoke.
As you can see, there are many benefits to quitting smoking. While it takes a long time to reverse the negative impact of smoking, persisting with it will ensure you remain healthy for longer and are able to enjoy your life.