November 17 is the Great American Smokeout, where smokers nationwide are encouraged to quit. Quitting smoking, however, is one of the hardest things to do. The nicotine found in cigarettes and other tobacco products makes them highly addictive and incredibly hard stop using. Smoking causes many different types of painful diseases, such as cancer, heart disease and chronic lung disease. It can also worsen existing conditions, and second-hand smoke is dangerous, too. When you smoke you’re risking your health and the health of your loved ones. However, it is possible to quit and live a tobacco-free life. To help motivate you to quit successfully, here’s what happens when you quit smoking.
Facts About What Happens When You Quit Smoking
Knowing the facts about quitting smoking often helps people who want to stop smoking but are having a hard time feel more motivated to quit for good. While smoking can cause serious health issues and damage, quitting smoking gives your body the chance to start the healing process.
Short-Term Effects of Quitting Smoking:
- Only 20 minutes after you quit smoking your pulse and blood pressure go back to normal, and your hands and feet return to their normal temperature.
- Within 8 hours, your body reduces the amount of nicotine and carbon monoxide in half. Carbon monoxide is a chemical that takes up space in your body where you should have oxygen. Oxygen is essential to a properly functioning body. When your body can’t get enough oxygen, it causes major problems for your muscles, tissues and organs. As the chemical levels in your body drop, the oxygen level in your body improves.
- You may begin to feel cravings, and this is normal. Typically, cravings only last about ten minutes. Find something to help you through cravings, such as chewing gum, listening to music or going for a walk.
- At 12 hours, your carbon monoxide level is back to normal, allowing your heart to pump better.
- When you’ve hit 24 hours, your risk of having a heart attack lowers. Think of it like this; smoking a pack of cigarettes a day makes you twice as likely to have heart attack than a nonsmoker. However, after only 24 hours, your risk lowers.
- After 48 hours (only two days), nicotine is out of your system, and your senses of taste and smell improve because damaged nerve endings start healing. Treat yourself to a tasty treat or your favorite meal. You’ll probably notice that your body is working hard to get rid of all the extra mucus in your lungs, so you may cough more. This is a normal part of the process.
- Major cravings and withdrawal symptoms may increase at this point. While this is normal, it is also very challenging. You may feel anxious, dizzy, tired, hungry and irritable. You may also have headaches or feel depressed. All of these symptoms could make it hard to stay away from smoking, but remember how far you have come. Instead of lighting up, call a friend, go to a movie, get the grocery shopping done or call a quit smoking hotline for extra support, such as the National Cancer Institute’s quitline (1-800-44U-QUIT). You can do this.
- Once you’ve hit 3 days, your lungs start to recover. You may feel that it’s easier to breathe, and you may have more energy.
Long-Term Effects of Quitting Smoking:
- From 2 weeks to 3 months, you’ve made great progress, and your risk of having a heart attack continues to decrease. Your blood flow has improved, and your lungs have continued to improve. Also, the hardest part of cravings and withdrawal symptoms are behind you now. With that said, you may still have cravings from time to time, so stick to your quit plan when you feel a craving starting.
- At 3 to 9 months, you can breathe even better and will likely be able to take deeper, clearer breaths without having a painful cough. You may still cough sometimes, but it will probably more productive and help you clear out any leftover gunk. You may notice that you aren’t catching so many colds or other illnesses, too.
- After 1 year, you’ve hit a huge milestone. Your risk of having a heart attack is now half of what it was a year ago. Celebrate your success, and keep up the good work.
- At 5 years, your chances of having a stroke or developing cervical cancer have reduced to that of a nonsmoker. Also, your risk of developing cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus or bladder has also decreased.
- Once you’ve hit 10 years, your chances of developing cancer larynx and pancreas drop. In addition, compared to a current smoker, you’re now half as likely to die of lung cancer.
- At 15 years, your body has done a lot of work, and your chances of developing heart disease are now the same as someone who never smoked.
Ask for Help
Remember, you’re not alone, and it’s normal to relapse a few times before quitting smoking becomes permanent. Ask for help when you need it. Work with your doctor on a quit plan to help you stay on track even when cravings hit. Have a plan in place before your quit date, and tell your family and friends your plan. With your support system, you’re ready to take the next step and quit smoking for good.