What Happens to Your Body When You Quit Smoking? 15 Surprising Health Benefits

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Around this time every year, people make resolutions to quit smoking for good. It’s important to your heart and lungs to quit smoking and improve your overall health. Find out how cigarettes affect your health and learn what happens to your body from the moment you decide to quit smoking.

A Timeline of What Happens When You Quit Smoking Nicotine

24 Hours After You Stop Smoking

  • 20 minutes - Only 20 minutes after quitting, your heart rate and blood pressure will drop closer to normal levels. Nicotine harms the insides of blood vessels and reduces the amount of oxygen the heart receives, making the heart beat faster and the damaged blood vessels work harder. This very short period of time allows your body to begin to repair itself.
  • 2 hours - Within two hours of smoking your last cigarette, your peripheral circulation will improve. Peripheral veins and arteries are located in the arms, hands, legs and feet and supply oxygen to the body. As your body rids itself of the chemicals in cigarettes, your hands and feet will start to feel warmer.
  • 12 hours - Around 12 hours after quitting smoking, the level of carbon monoxide in the blood drops back to normal. Carbon monoxide replaces oxygen in the blood cells making it so that your heart is not getting enough blood. Once the carbon monoxide is gone, there is more oxygen in your body.
  • 24 hours - After one day, your risk of heart attack drops. People who smoke have a 70% higher chance of having a heart attack because of the cardiovascular dangers associated with smoking. Smoking also increases your risk for blood clots, another major issue related to heart attacks.

One Month After You Stop Smoking

  • 3 days - By day three, there is no more nicotine in your body. Each time you smoke, the nicotine your body needs to get that “buzz” is amped up and requires more frequent cigarettes. This cycle leads to addiction.
  • 2 weeks - Two weeks after quitting circulation and lung function improve. As stated above, cigarette smoke damages your blood vessels. As time progresses, they will begin to repair themselves. Even in a small amount of time, like 14 days, your body is becoming more healthy.
  • 1-9 weeks - Around one to nine weeks after quitting, "smoker" norms become less pronounced. Coughing and shortness of breath decrease. You will be able to do physical activity without feeling winded or sick. Your withdrawal symptoms will also start decreasing.

One Year After You Stop Smoking

  • 1-9 months - One to nine months after quitting, the lungs will begin to repair themselves. Even the smallest of functions within the lungs will begin to work properly and shortness of breath and coughing will decrease even further.
  • 1 year - About one year after quitting, the risk of getting coronary heart disease is only half as high as smokers. Smoking has been proven as the direct cause for 1 in 5 heart disease deaths. The risk of developing heart disease is two to four more times as likely in smokers. This risk decreases by half when you quit smoking.

Years After You Stop Smoking

  • 2-5 years - Between two and five years after quitting, the risk of developing mouth, throat, esophagus and bladder cancers is reduced by half. Women’s risk of cervical cancer is also decreased.
  • 5 years - After five years, your risk of having a stroke drops to the same risk levels as nonsmokers. Smoking accelerates the development of blood clots, which are a factor in strokes. Quitting alleviates this stressor.
  • 10 years - Within 10 years after quitting, your risk of dying from cancer is now half that of a smokers'.
  • 15 years - Starting 15 years after quitting tobacco, your risk for heart disease is now the same as if you had never smoked.
  • 20 years - After 20 years, it’s estimated that you have saved over $71,000 by not buying cigarettes.
  • Lifetime - Congratulations, you have added several years to your life by quitting smoking. All of the risk factors about have been decreased or eliminated. 

How Long Do Nicotine Withdrawals Last?

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it's completely normal to have cravings or urges to smoke after quitting. For a few days or weeks after quitting smoking, it's common to feel irritable, jumpy, restless, having trouble sleeping or experience difficulty concentrating. When an urge to smoke hits, think about all the health benefits listed above to get through the craving.