After years of raising awareness, we probably all know the dangers of smoking tobacco. To quickly recap, here are just some of the consequences of regularly smoking:
- Heart attack
- Poor vision
- Lung cancer
- Unhealthy teeth
- Lower immune system
- Diabetes complications
Cigarettes, cigars, hookahs, and other smoking implements release thousands of different poisonous chemicals into the air and into your body. At least 69 of these chemicals have known links to cancer. These substances also damage your lungs and cause a variety of breathing problems, along with lung cancer. Smoking also strains your cardiovascular system; raising your blood pressure, weakening your blood vessel walls, and increasing blood clots.
While you may know all this already, you might think the damage has already been done. You might think the difficulty of quitting outweighs any small benefits you might gain. You couldn’t be more wrong. The fact is, your body starts healing as soon as you stop smoking.
Here’s what happens when you quit smoking, at any age:
Within 24 hours
The earliest change is felt in people who have been heavy smokers. Smoking constricts your body’s blood vessels. When you stop chain-smoking, your blood vessels immediately widen. This lowers your blood pressure, heart rate, and body temperature.
After 8 hours of no smoking, the level of carbon monoxide in your blood drops, allowing more oxygen to reach your cells and tissues. This jumpstarts the healing process in your body.
Within 72 hours
The first 72 hours—three days—of quitting smoking are the worst. Nicotine withdrawal causes symptoms such as extreme irritability, anger, and anxiety. It usually peaks a day or two after quitting, and then gradually subsides.
By now, your senses of taste and smell start healing, and damaged nerve cells begin repairing themselves. By the end of three days, all nicotine is gone from your body.
Within two weeks
You may still have cigarette cravings, but your withdrawal symptoms have largely subsided. Breathing has become easier as the sacs of air in your lungs produce less mucus.
Within three months
Your breathing and lung function continues to improve. As time passes, the improvements become less and less dramatic, especially if you have severe COPD. Your heart may also be working better, and you may have less inflammation in your body.
Within a year
By now, the cilia—tiny finger-like projections in the respiratory tract that help keep the lungs clear—have regrown. It may have caused more coughing in the beginning, but your lungs are getting stronger and you feel more energized. If you have mild to moderate COPD, the rate of decline in your lung function has now leveled off to that of non-smokers.
You may have gained weight, or need to work harder to keep the weight off. This normal among ex-smokers, especially females.
Continued abstinence from smoking will provide clear benefits for the rest of your life. Here are some of the results of long-term abstinence:
- Lowered rate of hospitalization by almost 300%
- Lowered risk of lug cancer by 30-50%
- Reduced risk of heart disease, heart attack or stroke by 45%
The risk of lung cancer recurrence, and death from lung cancer, are also significantly reduced.
So what are you waiting for? Quit smoking today.