How the Body Recovers from Quitting Smoking
Many lives can be saved and diseases can be prevented with the help of stopping smoking1. Even though the dangers are well known, quitting isn’t easy. If you are a former smoker, you know firsthand how challenging quitting can be.
Quitting smoking is cause for celebration because of the many benefits. It’s also a time to make plans to do things you couldn’t do before due to smoking. But how long does it take to see improvements? What impacts from smoking will remain?
Smokers who quit see real benefits faster than you think. It’s is important for smokers and loved ones of smokers to know this to keep you motivated.
Hours to Weeks After Quitting
When a person quits smoking, the body will start to heal. Some healing is seen or felt right away, sometimes even within an hour of their last cigarette! Healing will continue to improve in the weeks and months following quitting.
- Smokers’ heart rates are higher than most people’s and can be harmful if it stays high. In as little as 20 minutes after the last cigarette is smoked, the heart rate drops to a normal rate.
- Blood pressure in smokers is very high. Within an hour of the last cigarette, the blood pressure begins to drop to normal, and blood flow can improve just one day after quitting smoking.
- The risk of heart attack begins to fall.
- Smokers may feel more energy. In this time, smokers will also notice physical activity is easier as oxygen levels improve.
- Smoking can dull your senses. After quitting smokers report their sense of smell and taste returning to normal.
Months to a Year After Quitting
Benefits to the body from quitting smoking continue to increase over time. The lungs continue to heal. The risk of heart disease will decrease by half after five years smoke free. After 10 years, the chance of lung cancer is cut in half. After 20 years, the risk of death from smoking-related causes, including both lung disease and cancer, drops to the level of a person who has never smoked in their life.
There is no doubt that quitting smoking can save your life. But there are some negative effects smokers might feel while they are trying to quit. Smokers should be prepared to deal with these feelings.
Smokers can start to experience nicotine withdrawal. Around three days after quitting, most people will experience moodiness and irritability, severe headaches, and cravings. These symptoms don’t last long and are manageable. You can talk to your doctor about medication (over-the-counter or prescription) or nicotine replacement therapy (such as the patch) might be right for you. Using counseling services from a tobacco certified counselor have also been shown to be helpful.
The bottom line is each year of not smoking decreases risks and improves overall health to improve quality of life. Talk to your doctor to make a quit plan that’s right for you.