When you have a cigarette, within 10 seconds of the first puff, the poisonous chemicals in tobacco smoke reach vital organs including your heart and brain. Shortly after, your blood pressure and pulse rate begin to rise.
But your body is very good at healing itself, so you may be surprised at how quickly you see real health benefits after stopping smoking.
How quickly and how well your body heals depends on the number of cigarettes you normally smoke each day and how long you’ve been smoking, as well as whether you already have a smoking-related health condition. But there will be some improvements and quitting smoking at any age will increase your life expectancy.
Check out the timeline below to find out what is happening in your body over time when you stop smoking.
In as little as 20 minutes after having a cigarette, your blood pressure and pulse rate will go down.
4 to 6 hours
In around four to six hours, your breath becomes fresher.
Even after a few hours without a cigarette, the nicotine levels in your body fall quickly, which can cause nicotine withdrawal. Around this time, you may start to experience symptoms and feelings such as irritability and restlessness. Make sure you remind yourself that your body is healthier without tobacco.
Just six hours after your last cigarette, your heart rate slows to normal and your blood pressure becomes more stable.
One day after your last cigarette, your immediate risk of heart attack starts to fall.
Cigarette smoke contains carbon monoxide, which can reduce the amount of oxygen in the bloodstream. After 24 hours, the carbon monoxide level in your blood falls significantly, while the oxygen level increases, meaning your muscles, heart and other vital organs can work more easily.
After seven days without smoking, you will have higher levels of protective antioxidants such as vitamin C in your blood.
After a week without smoking, nerve endings damaged by smoking will start to regrow so you may start to notice you have more ability to taste and smell.
By two weeks without smoking, your breathing and walking will be easier because of your improved circulation and oxygen levels in your blood.
After four weeks, most of your nicotine withdrawal symptoms and feelings will have faded.
Your body will also get better at fighting infections in cuts and wounds.
You may be starting to feel less stressed than when you were smoking.
At the three-month point, plenty is happening in your body.
Your lungs’ natural cleaning system (involving little hair-like cells called cilia) is recovering and getting better at removing mucus, tar and dust from your lungs. This means coughing should improve and you are likely to be wheezing less. To help the process along, try doing some exercise.
Your immune system will also be starting to recover, enabling your body to do a better job of fighting off infection.
Your circulation system will be working better and your blood will be less thick and sticky. So the blood flow to your feet and hands will have improved.
A more visible change will be the fading of tobacco stains on your fingers.
Half a year after quitting smoking, you are less likely to be coughing up phlegm.
After nine months without cigarettes, you will have much more energy thanks to so many improvements in your health.
Coughing, blocked sinuses and shortness of breath will all have decreased.
The cilia that keep the lungs clean will have all regrown and will be doing their job well.
Your immune system will be more able to fight off colds and flu.
After one year as a non-smoker, your increased risk of coronary heart disease will be half that of a person who continues to smoke.
Your lungs will be healthier and you will be breathing more easily than if you’d kept smoking.
Between two and five years after your last cigarette, there will be a large drop in your risk of heart attack and stroke. This risk will continue to gradually decrease over time.
After 10 to 15 years without smoking, your increased risk of lung cancer will be around half that of a person who continues to smoke. Gradually, abnormal cells will have been replaced by healthy cells.
Your risk of other cancers, including oesophageal, bladder, laryngeal, oral cavity, cervical and pancreatic, will have decreased substantially.
Your risk of mouth, throat and oesophagus cancer will be half that of a person who continues to smoke.
If you smoked 20 cigarettes a day, you would have saved $164,250 (assuming a cost of $30 per pack of 20).
15 to 20 years
15 to 20 years after your last cigarette, your risk of coronary heart disease will be the same as a non-smoker.
Your risk of stroke will be close to that of a person who has never smoked.
Over time, your risk of lung disease, cancer, and many other serious illnesses will be much lower than if you kept smoking.