More than 7 million deaths occur every year due to tobacco use (1). Cigarette smoking causes more than 480,000 deaths in the US, of which more than 41,000 deaths are due to secondhand smoking.
What is alarming is that if there is no change in the smoking patterns, more than 8 million people all over the world will die from tobacco-related diseases by 2030!
Smoking can have dangerous consequences on one’s health and well-being. It can damage your cells and also increase your risk of developing life-threatening diseases like cancer.
You must have come across many individuals wanting to quit smoking but not being able to. While some of them are too addicted, a few others feel it might be too late to quit. Here’s a timeline to motivate you to kick the butt. It explains how your body heals the moment you give up smoking, and in the years to come. Scroll down and get started.
Timeline – What Happens To Your Body When You Quit Smoking?
Your blood pressure and pulse begin to drop back to normal (2). Your hands and feet also return to their normal temperature.
Eight hours later, the amounts of nicotine and carbon monoxide in your blood reduce to half. Nicotine is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, while carbon monoxide can use up all the oxygen in your blood and cause further health problems (3). At this point, you may also experience early cravings and doubts. However, this feeling will pass when you distract yourself.
People who smoke about one pack of cigarettes a day are twice as likely to get a heart attack as nonsmokers. After an entire day of not smoking, your risk of getting a heart attack begins to decrease (4). In this short period, the oxygen levels also rise, thereby making physical activity and exercising easier.
Treat yourself to your favorite dish or candy after two days of not smoking. By this time, your senses of smell and taste may have become a lot sharper as your nerve endings begin healing (5). There is also a lot of clean up that happens during this period. Your lungs start kicking out excess mucus and other gunk that may be left behind from the cigarettes. At this point, there are no more nicotine residues in your body.
At the end of three days (72 hours), your lungs recover significantly (6). Breathing also becomes easier, and, as a result, you will have more energy.
Once a smoker has crossed the one-week milestone without smoking, they are nine times more likely to quit smoking in the long term. If you have made it to a week, you can make it to a lifetime.
In two weeks, you will notice that you can breathe a lot easier, thanks to your improving pulmonary (lung) health due to increased oxygenation and circulation (6).
One of the main changes that you experience after a month of smoking cessation is a sense of heightened energy (7). You will also notice a reduction in many smoking-related symptoms, like nasal/chest congestion and shortness of breath during exercise.
In the next three months, circulation continues to improve, and so does your physical health. It can also decrease your risk of premature delivery (8).
After six months of not smoking, you will notice that you can handle stressful situations a lot more easily without feeling the urge to smoke. You will also see that you are coughing up less mucus and phlegm as compared to before, which indicates reduced lung inflammation (9).
A year later, your lungs would have experienced dramatic improvement, both in terms of capacity as well as functioning. Long-term quitters also report much less craving and withdrawal symptoms (10). You would have also saved a lot of money in a year, which would have been spent on cigarettes.
After three years of abstinence from smoking, your risk of heart attack will have reduced to that of a nonsmoker (11).
In three to five years of smoking cessation, a smoker’s overall survival rate, along with their mortality rate following a heart attack, reduces by half (11). The risk of mouth, throat, esophagus, and bladder cancers also reduces by half.
In a decade, your risk of dying from lung cancer becomes equal to that of a nonsmoker. Your risk of developing lung cancer also reduces by 30-50%, as compared to continuing smokers (12). The precancerous cells in your body will be replaced with healthy cells by now.
After 15 years, your risk of getting any cardiovascular disease is similar to that of a nonsmoker (13). By now, your body would have undergone a lot of recovery and healing to eliminate the aftermath of smoking.
Quitting smoking can have long-term benefits for your health. Your risk of high blood pressure, cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and pulmonary diseases will begin to decrease. While this may take a few years, each year of going without smoking improves your overall health.
The time to quit is now. Approach your family and friends to support you to lead a healthier, smoke-free life.
Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions
If you stop smoking, do your lungs go back to normal?
Yes, your lungs will begin getting back to normal within a few weeks of quitting smoking. In a few years, the health of your lungs will improve drastically.
Can you reverse the effects of smoking?
Yes, you can reverse the effects of smoking once you quit. However, it will take a few years for the risk of smoking-related diseases to go down to that of a nonsmoker.
How long does it take for lungs to heal from smoking?
The health and functionality of your lungs will begin improving in 24-48 hours after you quit smoking. In 6 months to 1 year, your lungs would have experienced a dramatic improvement both in terms of capacityand functioning. Your lungs will continue to heal in the coming 5-10 years.
Why does quitting smoking make you gain weight?
Smoking tobacco acts as an appetite suppressant and increases your metabolism. When you quit smoking, your appetite and metabolism return to normal. This causes you to eat more while burning fewer calories, thereby leading to weight gain.
Does quitting smoking makes you hungry? How do you stop cigarette cravings?
Smoking suppresses your appetite. When you give it up, your appetite returns to normal, thereby making you hungrier than before. You can fight cigarette cravings by:Trying out nicotine replacements. Avoiding places or crowds that may increase your urge to smoke.Chewing on sugarless gum or sucking on some fresh candy to distract yourself. Stopping smoking altogether.Practicing relaxation. Staying physically active.Reminding yourself of the benefits of giving up on smoking.
How to deal with stress when you quit smoking?
Quitting smoking can also lead to increased levels of stress. To tackle stress, you can follow a healthy diet, drink loads of water, cut out on caffeine, get a massage, exercise regularly, and practice deep breathing and meditation.
When will I feel better after quitting smoking?
As already discussed in this article, your health begins to improve in a few minutes of giving up smoking. This improvement continues until your chance of getting smoking-related illnesses drops to that of the non-smoking lot, which may take a few years.
Are there safe alternatives to cigarettes?
One of the safest alternatives to smoking is a nicotine inhaler. Inhaling nicotine has not only far lesser impact on your health as compared to smoking but also lesser risk of addiction.
- “Smoking & Tobacco Use” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- “Effects of smoking cessation on central blood pressure and arterial stiffness” Vascular Health and Risk Management, US National Library Of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- “6 Cardiovascular Diseases” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (US), US National Library Of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- “Risk of cardiovascular disease from cumulative cigarette use and the impact of smoking intensity” Epidemiology, US National Library Of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- “The association between smoking and smell and taste impairment in the general population.” Journal of Neurology, US National Library Of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- “Effects of smoking cessation on lung function and airway inflammation in smokers with asthma.” American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine. US National Library Of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- “Change in physical activity after smoking cessation: The Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study” Addiction, US National Library Of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- “Maternal smoking and causes of very preterm birth.” Acta Obstetricia et Gynecologica Scandinavica, US National Library Of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- “The impact of smoking cessation on respiratory symptoms, lung function, airway hyperresponsiveness and inflammation” European Respiratory Journal
- “Life One Year After a Quit Attempt: Real-Time Reports of Quitters and Continuing Smokers” Annals Of Behavioral Medicine, US National Library Of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- “Smoking Cessation and the Cardiovascular Patient” Current Opinion In Cardiology, US National Library Of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- “Cigarette Smoking: Health Risks and How to Quit (PDQ®)” National Cancer Institute, US National Library Of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- “Risk of Heart Failure and Death after Prolonged Smoking Cessation: Role of Amount and Duration of Prior Smoking” Circulation. Heart Failure, US National Library Of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.