Giving up smoking is one of the greatest difficulties that anybody can face. The cravings that accompany a life without cigarettes are well known and require significant willpower to overcome.
This is hardly surprising, seeing as nicotine is among the most addictive substances in the world.
However, the health risks associated with smoking are also well known. According to the World Health Organization, tobacco and smoking kill over 8 million people across the world each year.
Your body will thank you for quitting cigarettes, as will your friends and family.
If you’re going to attempt to quit smoking, it helps to know what lies in wait. Your body will quickly start undergoing changes for the better, making the short-term pain of withdrawal symptoms and cravings worthwhile. Your body starts to repair itself within an hour of extinguishing your last cigarette.
To understand what happens to the human body, once you’ve decided to quit smoking, it’s easier to take a look at the regular timeline.
The day you quit smoking
Many people smoke in times of duress, in an attempt at calming their nerves. This is counter-productive. Contrary to popular belief, smoking actually increases your heart rate, rather than decreasing it.
That’s right – smoking actually makes you more stressed, not less!
Just an hour without a cigarette means that your blood pressure returns to normal. This will improve your circulation. The familiar craving that arises when it’s been an hour since your last smoke is a result of this. Your body wants that hit of heart-racing excitement again.
If you can break this cycle, just for a day, you’re well on your way to giving up smoking full-time. It’s all a matter of taking it one hour at a time. Twelve hours into your smoke-free life, also, your body starts to purge carbon monoxide.
This means that oxygen will flow more freely, and you’ll begin to breathe easier. You may not remark this at first, but it won’t take long for you to feel much healthier.
The first week of quitting smoking
The first week that you quit smoking is the most critical. It’s during this time that your cravings will be at their highest, and you’ll need to be strong. Get support during this time if necessary – caving in and having, “just one last smoke” will set you back to square one.
The good news is, you’ll start to see some improvements in your health within this first week. After a couple of days, you’ll notice a boost in your senses of smell and taste. Smoking impacts profoundly upon these nerve endings, so a whole new world will open up to you.
Take a nice walk and stop to smell the roses – literally. You’ll discover sensations that have long since been lost to you.
After about three days, you’ll start to experience some challenges. This is the point when your body is really beginning miss the nicotine that it has become dependent upon, as it’s mostly been purged. This means that, in addition to amplified cravings, you’ll start to suffer from withdrawal symptoms.
These vary in severity from person to person. The heavier a smoker you were, the more severe the withdrawal will be. A universal symptom is that you’ll likely be very cranky, so you might want to warn your family and friends and apologize in advance!
Also, typical withdrawal symptoms of quitting smoking include:
- Aches and pains throughout the body
- Insomnia, and nightmares when you do manage to doze off
- Headaches and a sore throat, almost akin to a bout of ‘flu
- Anxiety and depression
- Increased hunger and possible associated weight gain
Stay strong during this time. These symptoms are temporary, and your body is already in better condition. Within a week of quitting smoking, your risk of heart disease and stroke are significantly reduced.
One month after quitting smoking
After a month, your physical withdrawal symptoms will have subsided. If you experience any side effects at all, they’ll be very minor by this stage. Your cravings should also have significantly diminished. By now, any desire for a cigarette will be borne more of habit than physical need.
Now is an excellent time to renew your gym membership. A month after you quit smoking, your lungs really start to feel the benefit. You’ll be able to engage in cardio exercise for much longer.
No more bending over and wheezing after climbing a staircase; instead, you’ll be able to enjoy a prolonged workout on a treadmill or spinning class.
One year after quitting smoking
After a year, you’ll start to notice some real changes to your health. This is primarily since your lungs have gone a long way toward fully repairing themselves.
The most significant impact on the lungs after a prolonged period of not smoking is to the cilia. These are tiny hairs, which act as a series of brooms in your body. They sweep up any unwelcome blockages to the lungs, which include mucus.
Smoking damages the cilia and prevents them from working appropriately. This is why smokers often find themselves more prone to respiratory infections, and commonly suffer from a telling, hacking cough. After one year of not smoking, the cilia are back in tip-top condition. This helps them perform their job better and enables you to breathe easier.
Several years after quitting smoking
Your body continues to repair itself long after you quit smoking. The benefits keep on coming, long after you’ve last used an ashtray.
Five years after you quit smoking, your blood vessels are in significantly better shape. They’ll widen up, and increase blood flow. This is a critical element of stroke prevention.
Naturally, cancer is also a significant risk associated with smoking. After around ten years, the chances of contracting lung cancer are halved. Tumors of the pancreas, throat, and mouth are much likely after approximately ten years of not smoking.
Twenty years after you give up smoking, you are mostly in the clear. You’ll enjoy the same health as somebody that has never smoked a cigarette in their life. It’s a long journey, but one that every smoker should undertake!
As you’ll see, giving up smoking is not an easy process – but it’s so worthwhile. Your body will undergo a great many changes, and they’re all beneficial in the longer term.
Be strong and stick with your decision to give up. You’ll live longer, feel better, and experience life in a whole new way.