Health benefits of stopping smoking: day by day improvements

Oct 1, 2018
Medically reviewed by Dr. Maroof Ahmed, MD on 
Oct 27, 2019

No matter how much you try to ignore it, there’s no getting away from the fact that cigarette smoking is an incredibly dangerous behaviour, which puts you at risk of all sorts of health complications, both now and in the future.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that up to half of smokers will die from their nicotine addiction, with a staggering 7 million people killed from tobacco-related causes each year. According to the agency, these statistics make tobacco smoking one of the biggest public health threats today.

In both the United Kingdom and the United States, smoking is responsible for 90% of lung cancer cases, while it significantly increases the risk of respiratory disease, heart disease and stroke too.

And it doesn’t end there. Cigarette smoking is also a major risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease and osteoporosis and can have an impact on fertility in both males and females. It’s particularly damaging for pregnant women, as tobacco smoke increases the risk of miscarriage, stillbirth and neonatal death, as well as contributing to a range of health conditions later on in the child’s life.

But despite this long list of health consequences, it’s important to remember that all smoking-related diseases are preventable diseases. With the right level of support, preparation and motivation, smokers can put an end to their nicotine addiction, and enjoy far healthier and happier lives for themselves and their families.

Why Stop Smoking?

Nicotine is as addictive as heroin, so it makes sense that many smokers are reluctant to change their ways, and instead come up with a multitude of reasons to avoid quitting. Yet others simply aren’t aware of the facts, or may have been tricked into believing one of the many myths surrounding smoking cessation.

If you already engage in a destructive behaviour, it can be easy to take the view that ‘I’ve already started, so I may as well carry on’.

Many believe that, as current smokers, the damage has already been done. But that simply isn’t true. While the quicker you stop smoking the better, ditching cigarettes at any point in your life is associated with better health outcomes and an increased life expectancy.

Others believe that after quitting smoking, it’ll take months or even years to notice any health improvements. Again, that view is completely unfounded, as the effects of stopping smoking begin in less than an hour!

Despite everything you throw at it, the human body is incredibly good at trying to repair itself. That’s great news if you’ve made the decision to go smoke-free, as you’ll begin to notice positive changes in a very short space of time, which will reassure you that you’ve made the right decision, and motivate you to keep going!

Short-term health improvements after quitting smoking: a smoke free timeline

20 minutes: The nicotine in cigarettes forces your heart to work harder, increasing your heart rate and blood pressure. After just 20 minutes after your last cigarette, both begin to decrease to normal levels. Since smoking narrows blood vessels, it reduces blood flow to the extremities, and many smokers report that they regularly experience cold hands and feet. After the 20-minute-mark, these effects also reduce, and your body returns to its normal temperature.

8 hours: After 8 hours, the level of carbon monoxide and nicotine in your body is reduced by half. Carbon monoxide displaces oxygen in your bloodstream, meaning that the more you smoke, the more your cells are starved of the oxygen they need to function properly. This is most noticeable with things like dizziness or headaches after smoking (the effects of carbon monoxide on the brain) and shortness of breath (the effects of carbon monoxide on the lungs).

12 hours: Only halfway through the first day and your carbon monoxide levels are already back to those of a non-smoker, meaning your oxygen levels are back to normal too! A massive achievement!

24 hours: Your risk of having a heart attack has already reduced, and your lungs are beginning to clear themselves of mucus. As time passes your risk of other diseases (lung disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, coronary heart disease and cardiovascular disease)

48 hours: After two days, you’ve managed to rid nicotine from your body. Your sense of smell and taste will gradually begin to return as your nerve endings start repairing. Treat yourself to something tasty!

72 hours: Your bronchiole tubes in your lungs begin to relax, making breathing a whole lot easier. Your lungs also become much better at filling with air. What’s more, you’ll find that your energy levels begin to increase too. You’ll probably find that physical activity isn’t so much of a struggle anymore as your lung function improves.

1 week: You’re over the worst of your nicotine withdrawal symptoms, and your body has already done a great deal of repair. Now it’s all about utilizing quit smoking therapies to make sure you remain smoke-free. If you’ve successfully managed a week without cigarettes, you can manage a lifetime! Congratulations!

On your way to a healthier future

The health benefits don’t end there, and the long-term consequences are just as significant as those you experience in the short-term. As the weeks, months and years go by, you’ll continue to benefit from your positive lifestyle change, with your risk of disease continually falling and other negative effects of smoking either freezing or reversing.

Hopefully, it’s now clear that regardless of how much you smoke or how long cigarettes have been in your life, you will notice the health effects of quitting, and it’s never too late for you to adopt a smoke-free life!

Quit Genius is the only quit smoking app that actually works! Using scientifically proven cognitive behavioural therapy techniques, you’ll learn how to change your relationship with cigarettes from smoke to ex-smoker, and will receive all the tools you need to overcome any cravings along the way. Download the app and begin your quit smoking journey today ->

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