According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), just under 70% of adult smokers say that they want to quit smoking, that’s around 22 million smokers in the United States alone who want to kick the habit. Whether you’re one of those people or you’re already on your journey to being smoke-free, seeking out information about the benefits of quitting smoking and what really happens when you stop is a valuable step.
Nobody said that quitting was easy but remember, amongst the mental effects of quitting smoking such as irritability or cravings are a whole host of benefits such as increased taste and smell, healthier teeth and gums, and improved lung function. Some of the other top reasons to quit smoking include:
- Reduce your risk of stroke, cancer, heart attacks, and other life-threatening diseases
- Increased energy levels
- Save money
- Improvements in your skin, teeth, and hair
- Improved breathing
- Stronger muscles and bones
- No more cigarette smoke scent!
What happens when you quit smoking?
Once you decide to stop smoking, you will soon realize that the side effects are both physical and psychological. And while each person going through the process will have a unique experience, the side effects are said to peak after 1-3 days without nicotine . Any withdrawal symptoms and side effects will then begin to steadily decrease over the next 3-4 weeks.
If 3-4 weeks sounds like a long time to go through the side effects of quitting, take a look at the side effects of quitting smoking in the following hours, days, and months after quitting on your body and you’ll realize how substantial the long-term health benefits really are!
- 20 minutes: Pulse rate and blood pressure will return to normal
- 8 hours: Body’s oxygen levels will return to normal
- 24 hours: The body will have expelled all carbon monoxide in your body
- 2 days: Nicotine levels will return to normal
- 3 days: Breathing will be the same as a non-smoker
- 4 days: Energy levels will return to normal
- 7 days: Bad breathe will subside
- 2 weeks: Tooth staining and/or plaque will reduce
- 3 months: Circulation will have improved
- 5 months: Coughs associated with smoking will have subsided
- 1 year: The risk of heart attack drops dramatically
- 10 years: The risk of developing lung cancer is around half of someone who is still smoking
- 15 years: The risk of developing coronary heart disease will be nearly the same as someone who has never smoked
How long does it take your lungs to recover from smoking?
According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), you will begin to feel the benefits of stopping smoking nearly minutes after your last cigarette when your blood pressure and heart rate begin to return to normal.
In terms of lung health, it can take anywhere from 2 weeks to 3 months for your circulation to improve and your lung function to increase. After 1 to 12 months you can expect shortness of breath to decrease as the cilia in your lungs repair and regain their function to clean the lungs.
What happens to you when you stop smoking? A timeline
What happens to your body when you quit smoking?
As previously mentioned, the side effects of quitting smoking are both physical and psychological.
Some of the effects on the body once you decide to quit include:
- Feeling light-headed or dizzy
- Sweating or high temperature
- Feeling restless
- Shaking or tremors
- Trouble sleeping, waking at night or insomnia
- Increased appetite
- Cramps, gas or bloating
- Digestive issues, most commonly constipation
Remember, these effects are only temporary! If you are experiencing intense cravings and withdrawal symptoms, try speaking with your doctor to speak about nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) which can help you overcome cravings.
What happens to your mind when you quit smoking?
As well as psychical side effects, there will be a handful of psychological effects of quitting smoking.
Some of the effects of the mind once you decide to quit include:
- Strong cravings to smoke and/or consumed by the thoughts of smoking
- Brain fog
- Mood changes such as anxiety or depression
- Feeling frustrated, angry or sensitive
- Difficulty concentrating
It’s important to know that although you might feel as if your stress levels have increased when you stop smoking, studies have shown that people’s stress levels are in fact lower after they stop.
What are the different methods for quitting smoking?
There is an abundance of information out there when it comes to smoking, and different methods of smoking cessation work for different people. The most important thing is that you follow through with your decision to quit.
According to Mayo Clinic, there are a number of methods used to ensure your last cigarette is really your last. These different methods include:
- Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT)
- Avoiding triggers
- Taking up physical activity
- Practicing meditation or relaxation techniques
- Seek support from family or friends
What happens when you quit cigarettes suddenly?
In one study, that included 700 participants, it was found that those who gave up smoking with the ‘cold turkey’ method were more successful than those who gradually stopped smoking .
In the six month follow up, researchers found that 22% of those who used the ‘cold turkey’ method were still cigarette-free after their quit date, while only 15.5% of those who gradually cut back were still not smoking after the first six month period.
If you’re going ‘cold turkey’, here are some of the best tips to tackle this method head-on:
- Know your triggers: What makes you want to smoke?
- Fill your calendar: If you’re always busy, you’ll have less time to think about smoking
- Self-care is #1: Don’t attend events or enter situations that will trigger smoking until you know you can handle it
- Track your savings: Make sure to keep note of how much money you’re saving for every box of cigarettes you don’t buy - at the end of every week treat yourself to something!
- Preparation is key: Plan your meals, work-outs and meetups with friends so you know what’s ahead and you don’t fall into the habit
How can you test your health after quitting smoking?
Smoking is said to have an effect on your HbA1c levels , stress hormones  and CRP levels  - each of which can be tested.
If you’re interested in tracking your health during your journey, LetsGetChecked provide at-home wellness tests for each of the above so you can document your progress and see first hand the positive effects quitting smoking has had on your health!
See also: How do you Check For Diabetes From Home?
M. Ohsawa, A. Okayama, M. Nakamura et al. *CRP levels are elevated in smokers but unrelated to the number of cigarettes and are decreased by long-term smoking cessation in male smokers. *Online: NCBI.nlm.nih.gov, 2005.