Health benefits of not smoking are well known. How about the health improvements for those who quit smoking?
Let’s find out how smoking harms the body first.
Smoking is associated with at least 14 types of different cancers, including bladder, mouth and bowel cancer.
If that is not enough of a deterrent, consider that whenever a cigarette is lit up, it results in a combustion process that triggers a dangerous cocktail of five thousand different chemicals, at least 70 of which can cause cancer.
There is no such thing as safety when it comes to smoking. Whether you are a social smoker or into roll-ups, shisha pipes or cigars, tobacco can be dangerous in all its forms.
From Withdrawal Pangs to Symptoms of Recovery
Following 12 hours after the last cigarette is consumed, the body automatically starts healing itself. Levels of nicotine and carbon monoxide in the system decline rapidly and the heart and lungs will start repairing themselves to mitigate the damage caused by cigarette smoke.
As the body heals itself, withdrawal pangs may set in. But these are actually symptoms of the recovery process.
Making the recovery process easier are nicotine replacement therapies such as patches, gums, and even e-cigarettes.
As the body repairs itself, the process of quitting may make you feel worse for some time. But it is important to understand that healing is a process that commences immediately and persists across time.
Symptoms of recovery such as short-term weight gain caused by fluid retention, irregularity and dryness or soreness of gums or tongue can leave you feeling more irritable, angry and hungry as well.
You may also have difficulty in sleeping and cough a lot. These symptoms result from the body rejecting the nicotine.
A potent addictive chemical, nicotine takes about two-three days to clear out from the system. Smoking harms every part of the body from the inner ear canal to the intricate blood vessels of the circulatory system.
For those combating nicotine addiction, giving up on this powerful fix can be a tough task. However, studies show that your body benefits minutes after the cigarette is drawn from the mouth and stubbed out.
To give you an idea of how your body responds to the absence of cigarette smoke and a nicotine fix, here’s a timeline that gives you a clear understanding of how health improves following smoking cessation.
Around 20 minutes of smoking the last cigarette, the body undergoes a metamorphosis and a transformation that persists for years.
To start with, the blood pressure drops to normal levels, and pulse rate also reaches healthy states.
Additionally, the body temperature of hands and feet return to normal states. While the short-term effects of quitting smoking begin within just 20 minutes, ingredients and chemicals contained in cigarettes speed up the heart rate and also elevate the blood pressure.
According to Centre for Disease Control, within just 20 minutes of ceasing to smoke analog cigarettes, the heart rate reaches normalcy.
As the smoke is inhaled, nicotine enters the blood stream and raises heart rate as well as the blood pressure.
Around two hours of non-smoking can set your heart rate and blood pressure to completely normal levels, and circulation in the peripheral parts of the body also undergoes a boost with time.
Warm sensations may be felt in the extremities such as the fingertips. This leads to an improvement of circulation.
Some adverse effects of quitting may also be experienced. These are the withdrawal symptoms.
Symptoms include increased appetite and irritation. Apart from agitation and anxiety, there may even be bouts of sleep disturbance and a massive psychological craving for “just one smoke”!
Around 6 hours from the time smoking cessation takes place, the heart rate slows down and the blood pressure attains stability.
As more time passes, your body undergoes more positive transformations after quitting smoking. Carbon monoxide levels in blood drop to normal and oxygen levels in the blood also increase to healthy levels.
But this can be a testing time, with smokers reaching for another cigarette due to strong withdrawal symptoms.
As the nicotine leaves the bloodstream, cravings result. Poisonous gases like carbon monoxide are among the four thousand chemicals that contaminate the body when tobacco combustion takes place.
However, nicotine and carbon monoxide leave the body and oxygen levels reach normalcy within eight hours of smoking cessation.
Estimated nicotine in an average human bloodstream falls to 6.25 percent of usual peak daily levels marking a 93.75 percent reduction.
Blood oxygen levels near normal range, after 12 hours of quitting smoking. Carbon monoxide which was inhaled along with cigarette smoke is a toxic and harmful substance, that attaches itself to blood cells and prevents oxygenation levels from reaching normal.
This can trigger heart-related issues. It is only after 12 hours of smoking cessation that carbon monoxide leaves the body.
This permits blood cells to bond effectively with oxygen. Blood oxygen levels, therefore, attain normalcy.
Around a day after you quit smoking, a lot of benefits accrue. Firstly, the chance of a heart attack decreases.
Anxiety peaks in intensity around this time when most of the nicotine has exited the bloodstream.
Carbon monoxide levels drop and the blood reaches the heart and muscles. This causes the blood supply to peripheral parts of the body to improve. The result is that your hands become steady and fingertips retain their warmth.
A day after the last smoke, the lungs begin clearing out debris and mucus resulting from smoking. Statistics show the chances of a heart attack in those who smoke is a massive 70 percent higher than those who do not smoke.
After 24 hours of giving up smoking, however, this risk begins to lower. On the other hand, anxiety and tension levels reach a peak.
The stress associated with smoking cessation is a sign of withdrawal. Smoking does not de-stress, it merely satisfies this craving. Research has even shown that ex-smokers are far more relaxed than those who have not quit.
At this point in your journey following smoking cessation, nerve endings begin growing and the ability for smelling and tasting are enhanced. But conversely, cessation linked irritability and anger would have also peaked. Nicotine, a toxic liquid is a key ingredient in tobacco.
Highly addictive, it numbs the sense of taste and smell. Once the nicotine is completely eliminated, the sense of taste and smell return to normal. The senses rely on nerve endings, which are deadened by continuous smoking.
Within 48 hours after smoking cessation, the nerve endings begin to regrow. Consequently, the ability to detect flavors and aromas returns to normal. Make the gentle transition to zero smoking by quitting on cigarettes and using NRT or other substitutes to kill the craving.
This is the point where the body is 100% nicotine free. A majority of the nicotine metabolites or breaks down into chemicals that are eliminated from the body through urine and sweat. But, the symptoms of the chemical withdrawal also reach a new high.
Average ex-users experience restlessness and cue-induced cravings. Recovering smokers also experience an improvement in the functioning of their bronchial tubes leading to alveoli or air sacs.
Consequently, breathing easily is facilitated. Numerous methods are there to combat irritability, anger, craving and other withdrawal symptoms. So, 3 days into quitting should be easy to handle.
A week/7 Days
On an average, a smoker who quits encounters around three cue-induced cravings each day. Smoking cessation can induce time distortion too.
Minutes may feel like they are stretching into hours. A single episode, though seeming long, lasts for only three minutes. Keeping a clock handy is essential for timing this. The sense of taste and smell consequently improve.
Higher blood levels of protective antioxidants including vitamin C will result within a week of quitting smoking. When it comes to the cravings, it’s largely a case of mind over matter.
A withdrawal cough may be experienced, but this is part of the lungs clearing themselves of debris. Nonsmokers, as well as ex-smokers, may now have the same level of blood circulation, especially for the teeth and gums.
Gum disease becomes a thing of the past, as your body begins to recover and tissue damage is undone.
The average number of cravings experienced boil down to around 2 episodes in a day. Each is less than three minutes in duration.
Recovery progresses to the stage, where addiction is no longer present. Blood circulation in gums and teeth return to normal.
Once two-three weeks are over, numerous processes of regeneration take place within the body. Most of these are noticeable.
As per the AHA/ American Heart Association, the lung capacity begins to rebound and increase in normal functionality and boosts circulation.
Now, intense exercises and activities such as running and swimming become easier, as you rely on stamina and endurance.
Cessation at this point will have stopped causing withdrawal symptoms such as impatience, difficulty in focusing, insomnia, depression, and restlessness.
In case such symptoms continue to be experienced, it’s time to see the doctor.
Smoking affects the circulation of the blood, making it tough to cope with physical activity. Apart from this, it also impacts overall health. Smoking cessation ensures that exercise becomes easier and breathing improves.
At this point, the number of acetylcholine receptors which were tuned to respond to the nicotine in the different regions of the brain become down-regulated.
This includes the frontal, occipital, parietal, temporal lobes and the basal ganglia as well as the thalamus, cerebellum and brain stem. The binding power of these receptors returns to normal after 21 days.
30 Days/1 Month
The feelings of withdrawal go away for good within one month. These feelings should have bee replaced by confidence and good health. Smokers who quit and reach four weeks of smoke-free states are likely to remain so 5 times more than those who don’t make it.
The risk of heart attack drops dramatically within 2 months. The functionality of the lungs also improve and walking long distances is far easier, apart from regular tasks such as climbing the stairs. Bad coughs completely dissipate by this time.
2 Weeks-3 Months
During this period, lung function increases up to a massive 30 percent, boosting circulation and making exercise easier. Heart attack risks drop further.
Coughing and wheezing decrease considerably. The natural cleaning system of the body recovers and lungs become more adept at removing dust, tar, and mucus, clearing out the respiratory tracts.
Blood becomes less thick and sticky. Its flow to extremities and peripheral regions of the body improves.
The immunity of the body also improves so it can fend off infections and diseases.
Within 4 weeks of quitting, with or in the absence of NRT, plasma suPAR levels predicting disease development for chronic conditions like diabetes and cancer reaches normal levels.
This stable inflammatory biomarker plays a vital role in raising the immunity of the body to these chronic medical conditions.
Insulin resistance in smokers normalizes despite weight gain of as high as 2.7 kg according to a 2010 study, within 8 weeks of quitting smoking. The tangible benefit of this is increased resistance to diabetes.
As the cilia or hair in the lungs regrows, this increases the ability of the lungs to clear up, handle mucus and reduce infection. The overall energy level of the body increases. The lungs undergo a dramatic transformation.
Cilia are hairy organelles which lower chances of infection by pushing mucus from the lungs. This improves lung function and performance, besides lowering chances of an infection or disease.
The lungs are way healthier within 1 year of quitting smoking. You breathe easier and shortness of breath, as well as fatigue, will no longer plague you.
While lungs may not regain 100% health, cilia regrow and heal the damage caused by smoking. The chance of developing a coronary heart disorder halves as compared to that of smokers.
This includes heart attacks and stroke. The risk for any kind of cardiovascular disease is higher for smokers. Ex-smokers are 50 percent less likely to suffer heart disease, heart attack or stroke within one year of quitting.
Smoking damages the arterial lining causing atheroma which is a fatty substance to narrow the arteries. This leads to strokes, angina and heart attacks. Around a year after you quit, this risk more than halves.
There is a massive drop in the possibility of developing a heart attack and this risk reduces over time further. For women, for example, within 5 years, cervical cancer risk is the same as that of nonsmokers. The risk of developing diabetes also remains the same as that of a healthy person, within 5 years of quitting smoking.
Lung cancer death risk halves for average smokers who were on a single pack a day, 5 years after they quit completely. Within 5-15 years, the risk is reduced to that of non-smokers. The risk of mouth, throat cancer and cancer of the esophagus is half that of the smoker. The chances of subarachnoid hemorrhage lower to 59% of the risk, when smoking ceases.
Smoking also constricts the blood vessels. This constriction increases the risk of stroke. A primary factor which initiates this is the carbon monoxide. Between 5 to 15 years after smoking is quit on. The chance of a stroke lower to that of an average healthy, non-smoking individual.
This decreases the mortality rate of the ex-smoker. Why do smokers stand a higher chance of developing stroke? It is quite simply because the smoker is likely to have sticky blood which is hard to move around the body.
Now, lung cancer death risk equals that of nonsmokers. Precancerous cells are replaced and risk of cancers of throat, mouth, esophageal, kidney, bladder and pancreas lower.
The risk of being diagnosed with lung cancer ranges from thirty to fifty percent compared to those continuing to smoke, once 10 years are up. The risk of developing diabetes for both men and women non-smokers equals the same percentage as that of those who never smoked.
The risk of lung cancer also lowers. After 10 years of no smokes, the major organs are less likely to develop cancer by as high as 50 percent compared to those smoking conventional cigarettes.
Lung cancer can threaten a smoker’s life as can mouth and pancreatic cancer. Smoking cessation halts this possibility and lowers its chances of occurring.
Once you smoke, the heart works harder to pump the blood leading to increased chances of heart diseases. Following 10 years of being smoke-free, the health risk of a heart attack matches that of a non-smoker.
The average smoker who lives up to 75 years of age may have around 5.8 fewer teeth than those not smoking, but induced tooth loss risk also lowers in ex-smokers, according to a 2006 study.
While the risk of coronary heart disease and stroke declines to that of a person who never smoked, the chances of pancreatic cancer also further reduce. How fast your body recovers is based on three factors namely:
• Number of cigarettes smoked
• Length of time for which smoking took place
• Whether you have a smoking-related disease already
Within fifteen years of quitting smoking, restoration is complete. Non-smokers, according to AHA, live 14 to 15 years longer than smokers.
With restored heart, circulatory system and lung functioning, it comes as no surprise to know you will remain active and healthy.
The excess risk of death from smoking such as lung cancer now reduces within 20 years of quitting. The risk of pancreatic cancer also declines to that of a non-smoker.
Rewards of Quitting Cigarettes
So, within just a few days, you will notice amazing changes in your body, with an improved sense of smell and taste. Breathing will become easier ad the smoker’s hacking cough will disappear.
Free from the smell, mess, expense, inconvenience, and dependence of smoking, you will have gained a stress-free peace of mind.
Once you quit, you add days to your life, improving the chances for a healthier, longer life.
Significantly reduce the chances of diseases such as heart attack, stroke, cancer, chronic bronchitis, and emphysema to name just a few.
Quit smoking and break free from the evil cycle that pushes you to the brink of destruction. Improve your chances of a longer life and a better quality of existence by opting for smoking cessation.
Apart from benefiting just your health, smoking cessation also exerts a beneficial impact on others. This can have a positive impact on the final outcome and increase the chances of a long, disease-free life for others.
After all, passive smoke can be just as dangerous as first-hand smoke. Don’t succumb to the thrill of smoking, because it can kill not just you, but also your loved ones, friends, and family.
Smoking is one of the most dangerous pastimes to indulge in. Contrary to popular belief, smoking does not relax the mind or the body.
Rather, it produces harmful chemicals and toxins which further trap the body in a state of disease. Mental relief from smoking is transitory, but the final effects of taking in poisonous fumes such as carbon monoxide apart from addictive nicotine can be permanent.
The sooner you quit, the better off you will be. Choose a smoke-free existence and opt for NRT, vaping or other healthier alternatives in your fight against smoking.
Your body will thank you for it. After all, a sound mind in a sound body can influence your personal and professional life. Don’t seek refuge in the filthy habit of smoking, because succumbing to just one more cigarette can harm you in more ways than just one.