When you're trying to quit, everyone keeps telling you how much better you'll feel and the benefits of being smoke-free are extolled endlessly. But what can you expect to experience as time elapses during the process of kicking the habit? What are the timescales? Read on to find out …
20 minutes in
Believe it or not, you'll feel the benefits of quitting in as little as 20 minutes as your heart rate begins to drop back down toward normal levels.
2 hours in
Although your heart rate and blood pressure level will have returned to almost normal levels, nicotine withdrawal symptoms now begin to appear. You may experience severe cravings, increased appetite, stress or insomnia. On the plus side, there may be an improvement in your peripheral circulation.
12 hours in
When tobacco burns it releases toxic carbon monoxide which you inhale into your lungs. Carbon monoxide prevents oxygen from bonding effectively with red blood cells and this can cause serious cardiovascular issues. Only 12 hours after quitting, carbon monoxide levels reduce to much lower levels and your blood oxygen returns to normal.
24 hours in
A landmark! And you've already reduced your risk of heart attack considerably. Keep it up, you're doing great!
48 hours in
After 48 hours without a cigarette, your previously reduced sensory capacity, especially smell and taste, will begin to improve as your nerve endings begin to recover and regrow.
Three days in
After three days cigarette free your body will be completely free of nicotine. Whilst this is a great milestone, it also means that your withdrawal symptoms will peak now. These could include such nasties as headaches, cramps and nausea in addition to the psychological symptoms already mentioned. Now's the time to treat yourself to a much-needed pick me up using the money you've saved by not smoking.
Two to three weeks in
By this time you should find that you're able to exercise without experiencing feelings of nausea giddiness. Why? Well, because your lung function has improved along with your circulation so you can breathe much more easily. And another thing; your withdrawal symptoms will by now have virtually disappeared – result!
One to nine months in
A month or so after quitting, your lungs will begin to repair the damage smoking has done to them. This means that you now have a greatly reduced risk of chest infections and even the heaviest former smokers will find that their withdrawal symptoms have gone completely.
One year in
This is a major landmark – congratulations! You have now reduced your risk of heart disease by half.
Five years in
Many of the substances you inhale from burning tobacco cause narrowing of the arteries. This places you at risk from suffering a stroke. Luckily, from five years onward after quitting your risk of stroke is just the same as a non-smoker.
Ten years in
Everyone knows that smoking increases your risk of cancer; lung cancer unsurprisingly being the most likely and smoking accounts for 90% of deaths from that disease. After 10 years of being smoke free your risk of dying from lung cancer will reduce by half and your risk of contracting other forms of smoking related cancers also decreases.
15 years in
So, here you are 15 years down the non-smoking road and guess what? You are no longer a high risk category for heart attack and disease!
If you haven't already worked it out, the long-term benefits of quitting are truly amazing. Non-smokers (including those who smoked for years and then quit) live 14 years longer than smokers. And you'll feel much healthier, want to be more active and get a whole lot more enjoyment out of the extra life you've bought yourself.
So what are you waiting for?