We all know that smoking cigarettes takes a toll on the body and is linked to various health issues. But do you know that your body can repair many of these injuries surprisingly quickly if you just stop smoking?
Below, we will take a look at a time line for what you can expect as your body recuperates. Hopefully, it will help you keep motivation up as you remain cigarette free.
The first 24 hours without a cigarette
For many cigarette smokers, going 24 hours without a cigarette is difficult and requires a strong resolve. Fortunately, great things start to happen inside your body during these 24 hours and you will actually be a little bit healthier at the end of these 24 hours than you were before.
Already within 30 minutes after your last cigarette, the increased heart rate brought on by the cigarette will be down to normal again. Also, the increased blood pressure will begin to settle.
After 12 hours without a cigarette, there is no longer any excess carbon monoxide left in your body, which means that your red blood cells can focus on transporting oxygen instead.
As you reach the 24 hour mark, you have already lowered your risk of suffering from a heart attack. Of course, the longer your stay a way from the cigarettes, the lower it will go, until you are down to the same level as non-smokers.
The first week without smoking
Congratulations – you have been smoke free for 24 hours. Let’s see if you can continue on that winning streak for a full weak. There are many rewards in store for you, but also difficult bridges to cross.
Smoking cigarettes numbs our sense of smell and taste, since the smoke causes damage to the nerve endings involved in these senses. During your very first week as smoke free, you can expect your sense of smell and taste to begin improving noticeably. For some, this experience isn’t solely a positive one, because all of a sudden you are capable of smelling all those odours that you could block out before, including a stronger than normal smell of cigarette smoke in your home, in your car, in your clothes, on your friends, etc.
After three days of no cigarettes, your will reach a critical point in your path. This is when all the stored up nicotine in your body has been removed and you stand there – nicotine free for the first time in months or years. Since nicotine is addictive, you can expect to experience strong withdrawal symptoms at this point. It is good to be aware of this and understand what’s behind your sudden urge to take up smoking again. It is simply your body trying to adjust to not being given nicotine. If you push through and stay away from the smokes, the withdrawal symptoms will go away as your body returns to a more natural state. Each withdrawal symptom you experience is actually, in its own way, a sign of how far you have come and how your body is being cleansed of the nicotine.
Examples of common withdrawal symptoms are moodiness, irritability and headaches.
The first month without smoking
Has it been a month already? Once you have been smoke free for a month, you can expect both your lung function and your circulation to be improved. You may not notice it, but the change is there and things are moving on. Pay attention and you will soon see the signs. You are coughing less and you don’t become out of breath as quickly when you are physically active.
The first year without smoking
During your first year after giving up the cigarettes, you will notice many improvements. As mentioned above, both your lung function and your circulation will start recuperating.
One of the great things that happens during this first year is the re-growth of the cilia in your lungs. Cilia are delicate hair-like structures responsible for transporting mucus out of the lungs. Smoking damages the cilia, making us more prone to lung infections. Around the 9-month anniversary of you giving up the cigarettes, you can expect all your cilia to have grown back. That’s worth celebrating, isn’t it?
When you hit the 1 year mark of being cigarette free, rejoice in the fact that your risk of coronary disease is now half of what it would have been with the cigarettes.
The 5 year anniversary
Although some things in the human body are quick to heal, other things take considerable time. One of those things that can take many years is the restoration of blood vessels that have been narrowed by cigarette smoke. They will stop getting more narrow as soon as you quite smoking, but actually getting them to be widen again will take time.
The good news is that even though the process is slow, it is still moving forward. Even if your blood vessels were already severely narrowed when you quit smoking, you can expect them to be widening again after five years without cigarettes. Over the next 10 years, this process will continue, with your blood vessel – including the arteries – getting a bit wider each year.
This is really important for your health, because narrow blood vessels increase the risk of a blood clot getting stuck in one of them. If a blood clot gets stuck and prevents the brain from getting enough oxygen, you will suffer a stroke – a potentially deadly event.
The 10 year anniversary
We all know that cigarette smoke increases the risk of lung cancer, but if you manage to stay away from cigarettes for 10 years your risk of developing lung cancer and dying from it will be 50% lower than what it would have been if you had continued smoking. Also, your risk of developing cancer in the mouth, throat or pancreas has dropped dramatically now.
15 years: An important milestone for coronary disease
15 years without a cigarette is an important milestone, because even if you used to smoke like a chimney earlier in you life, your risk of developing coronary disease is now down to the same level as for people who never smoked. Bonus: The same is true for your risk of developing pancreatic cancer.
If you remain smoke free for another five years, your risk of developing a wide range of other cigarette-related health issues will also drop down to the same level as for those who never smoked. This includes many types of cancers and lung diseases.