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What Happens To Your Body When You Quit Smoking?

Today, Wednesday 14th March 2018, is No Smoking Day. If you’ve been smoking for a while, you may be thinking about how it has affected your body. You might even think you have done permanent, irreversible damage and there’s not much point stopping.

The truth is that the human body is actually really adaptable and almost immediately begins to repair the damage caused by smoking. The rest of this article looks at the way the body repairs itself over time.

After 1 hour

The heart rate drops and returns to a normal level around 20 minutes after the last cigarette is finished. Your blood pressure will begin to drop and your circulation may even start to improve.

After 12 hours

When you have been cigarette free for 12 hours, your body will have removed all excess carbon monoxide from your system. This gas is inhaled with the smoke from cigarettes, and is harmful to the human body.

When carbon monoxide levels decrease and return to normal, your oxygen levels will increase. This increase in oxygen makes physical activity and exercise easier to do.

After 1 day

Smoking causes high blood pressure, which in turn increases your risk of heart disease. After a day of not smoking, your risk of heart attack will already be starting to decrease.

After 2 days

Smoking can affect your olfactory nerves, which in turn affects your senses of smell and taste. After 2 days of not smoking you may begin to notice your senses of taste and smell starting to improve again.

After 3 days

You may notice that withdrawal symptoms start to kick in as nicotine levels in the body decrease. You may experience cravings, moodiness, irritability and bad headaches as your body adjusts to having less nicotine.

After 1 month

One month is around the time it takes for your lung function to begin to improve. Your lung capacity will be starting to increase, meaning you will experience less shortness of breath and making it easier to carry out physical activity and exercise. You may also notice you cough less.

Circulation continues to improve over the next couple of months.

After 9 months

The lungs have healed greatly after nine months of not smoking. The cilia, tiny hair-like structures inside the lungs, will have recovered enough by this point to carry out their job of helping keep the lungs clean. They help move mucus out of the lungs, preventing lung infections.

After 1 year

By this point, your risk of coronary heart disease (ischaemic heart disease) will have decreased by half. This risk continues to decrease with time.

After 5 years

Cigarettes contain toxins that have a double effect of causing the blood vessels to narrow and increasing the risk of stroke. Five years free from smoking will give the body enough time to heal itself so that the arteries and blood vessels begin to widen again.

This in turn means there is less chance of a blood clot and a reduced risk of stroke. The risk of stroke continues to decrease over the next decade.

After 10 years

After ten years, your risk of developing lung cancer will have been roughly halved when compared to someone who has continued to smoke. The risk of mouth, throat and pancreatic cancer are also lower.

After 15 years

At this point, your risk of developing coronary heart disease and pancreatic cancer is the same as a non-smoker.

After 20 years

Twenty years after quitting smoking, your risk of dying from smoking-related diseases has decreased to the level of someone who has never smoked.


Although smoking is harmful to your health, this timeline shows just how amazing the human body is when it comes to healing and repairing itself. Whilst it’s true that some of the health improvements take time to happen, stopping smoking is still a great choice to make for your general health in the long term.

References

What Happens to Your Body When you Quit Smoking?