Quitting smoking is the best thing any smoker can do for their health - it’s a fact that 1 in 2 long-term smokers will die from this deadly addiction. The mantra may be that “we all die eventually” but smokers die on average 10 years earlier and tragically, from much more painful and debilitating illnesses such as lung cancer, heart attacks and strokes.
The sooner smoking is given the boot, the sooner the body can begin to repair itself. Any amount of time smokefree gives the body - especially the lungs and bloodstream - the time to ‘breath’ again and take in the clean air needed to recuperate.
There’s some damage caused by smoking which will never go away but there’s no question about it; say goodbye to smoking and you’ll live a much healthier, longer, richer life.
One of the scariest aspects of quitting smoking can be the unknown of what will happen and this often puts people off trying to be smokefree in the first place. Here’s a look at what happens to the body, step-by-step.
- 20 minutes
The human body is an amazing thing - just 20 minutes after that last cigarette, it begins to recover. Nicotine, the addictive chemical in smoking, acts as a stimulant and gives that all important ‘kick’. Not long after the last puff of smoke, heart rate and blood pressure return to normal following this high.
- 8 hours
This is the testing time when most smokers reach for another cigarette. The effects of withdrawal are strong as nicotine leaves the bloodstream and cravings start to happen.
- 1 day
Anxiety and ‘stress’ levels peak. The feeling of stress associated with quitting smoking isn’t usually stress – it’s a sign of withdrawal. That’s why it’s untrue that smoking de-stresses, it’s just feeding a craving. In fact, research shows non- and ex-smokers feel less stressed than smokers.
- 2 to 3 days
If going ‘cold turkey’ there’s no nicotine left in the body but it’ll take a while to adjust to this new feeling. Using Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) such as gum, patches or e-cigarettes supplies the body with nicotine and allows smokers to ween themselves off smoking gently, making it easier to quit cigarettes.
Taste and smell receptors are given the chance to heal meaning food will never have tasted so good!
- 1 week
Making it one week smokefree means quitters are over the worst of it. It’s perfectly normal to think about smoking regularly - it’s now a case of mind over matter as the body no longer physically craves tobacco.
Many quitters experience a nasty cough but this is perfectly normal – it’s the lung’s way of clearing themselves as much as they can.
- 2 weeks
Blood circulation especially to the gums and teeth returns to normal levels, the same as a non-smoker. Now that the mouth isn’t being bombarded with smoke, tissue damaged by gum disease can recover.
- 1 month
Withdrawals can range from anger, anxiety, insomnia and mild depression but by month one, these feelings should have subsided. If not, a trip to the GP is recommended.
Quitters who make it to 4 weeks smokefree are five times more likely to stay smokefree for good!
- 2 months
The risk of heart attack risk has started to drop. With lung function improving too, climbing the stairs gets that little bit easier each day.
- 3 months
Walking long distances is a lot easier now. Any bad coughs should have disappeared, but if not, being seen by a doctor is imperative as it can be a sign of something more sinister.
- 6 months
Any tiredness and shortness of breath will be a thing of the past. Cilia, air sacs in the lungs, have regrown and healed some of the damage caused by smoking, but the lungs will never be 100% healthy.
- 1 year
Ex-smokers are 50% less likely to have a heart attack, heart disease or a stroke within just one year of quitting smoking.
- 5 years
Diabetes is an illness long-term smokers can develop. Make it 5 years smokefree and the risks of it occurring are the same a non-smoker.
- 5 – 10 years
Amazing! The risk of having a stroke is now the same as that of a non-smoker. Smoke makes blood sticky and hard to move around the body and that’s why smokers are much more likely to have a stroke.
- 10 years
Lung cancer is the biggest risk to a smoker’s life. Within 10 years of quitting, the chance of death from lung cancer is half that of a smoker. The risk from other cancers such as mouth and pancreatic have reduced significantly.
- Post 10 years
When smoking, the heart works harder to pump smoke-ridden blood and this leads to increased risk of heart attacks and disease. After 10 years smokefree, the risk of heart disease is the same as a non-smoker!