What happens to your body after you quit smoking?

Giving up smoking is most likely one of the most challenging and difficult things a person can do. It requires commitment, self-control and patience, but the benefits to your health and lifestyle that come from kicking the habit are worth it. You can begin to enjoy improvements almost immediately, with more benefits becoming noticeable as time passes. Here's a simple breakdown of what happens to your body after you say goodbye to cigarettes.

20 minutes

Just 20 minutes after your last cigarette, you can begin to see changes. Your heart rate will start to drop towards normal levels, as will your pulse, blood pressure and body temperature.

Two hours

You may see a vast improvement in your circulation at this point with your fingers and toes feeling warmer. It's also around this time that you may start to notice nicotine withdrawal symptoms that can include:

  • intense cravings
  • drowsiness or insomnia
  • anxiety or frustration
  • increased appetite

12 hours

When you smoke, carbon monoxide that is released from burning tobacco is inhaled as part of the cigarette smoke. Carbon monoxide is the same gas emitted by exhaust pipes, illustrating how harmful it can be, especially when high levels are reached in the body. This gas bonds really easily and successfully with blood cells and as a result, prevents the same cells from bonding with life-giving oxygen, which means that tissues and organs in your body are receiving less oxygen. This can lead to severe cardiovascular problems, among other things.

12 hours after you've quit, the carbon monoxide levels in your body should have decreased significantly.

One day

A mere 24 hours after you've smoked your last cigarette, your risk of suffering from a heart attack will drop. There should be no more carbon monoxide in your body and your lungs should feel clearer, making it easier to breathe.

48 hours

Smokers tend to suffer from deadened senses, specifically smell and taste. Two days after quitting, your nerve endings will start to re-grow and your ability to smell and taste will begin to return.

Three days

Your body should be completely nicotine-free at this point, which is an important milestone to reach after quitting. However, it also means that your withdrawal is also likely to peak. Headaches, cramps and nausea are the most common symptoms.

Two to three weeks

Lung function should have continued to improve with breathing only becoming easier and clearer. As a result, exercising will have become easier as well, with the usual wheezing and winded feeling greatly reduced.

One to nine months

At the one month mark, the cilia in your lungs, responsible for pushing mucus out, have started to repair themselves and function better. Because they are now able to do their job, the risk of infection is reduced, as is shortness of breath and coughing associated with smoking.

One year

By the time you celebrate your one year anniversary of giving up cigarettes, your risk of suffering from heart disease is reduced by 50%.

Because quitting smoking can be a really tough experience, avoid choosing a particularly stressful time in your life to stop - it will almost always make it harder to give up. But the value of quitting is worth the effort. Not only from a health point of view, but also because you will save money and life insurers, such as FRANK.NET, also take your smoking habits into account when you apply for products like Serious Illness Cover.

PLEASE NOTE: This article acts as a general guideline as to what the average ex-smoker may experience but certain factors, such as age, how long the person smoked for etc., can result in differing experiences for each individual.


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