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Educational health information to improve your well-being.

Love Your Lungs: What Happens When You Quit Smoking

July 7, 2017
Published in: Pulmonology

Handmade graphic showing the decrease in cigarette usage when quitting smoking

Smoking – maybe you started in high school or picked up your first cigarette during a stressful time. No matter how you started, one thing is for sure, smoking is a hard habit to break. Some even delay quitting because they feel the damage to their health is already done. It's true that smoking increases your risk of heart disease, cancer, stroke, and many other illnesses. However, there's good news for those that decide to kick the habit. In fact, the benefits of being smoke-free start in as little as 20-minutes after you quit.

A Journey Begins With a Single Step: The First 24 Hours After You Quit Smoking

Within the first 24 hours of quitting your body is doing amazing things to restore itself. In fact, you'll experience the first health benefits in as soon as 20 minutes.

20 minutes

Pulse and blood pressure start going back to normal

2 Hours

Circulation improves causing hands and feet to warm up. At the two-hour mark, you may also start to feel the first symptoms of withdrawal. You may have intense cravings, disrupted sleep patterns, and increased anxiety. However, if you resist the urge to smoke, your body rewards you with more health benefits at the 8-hour mark.

8 hours

Half the amount of nicotine and carbon monoxide (CO) is present in your body. Carbon monoxide robs you of oxygen. Reducing the carbon monoxide in your system benefits every part of your body, especially your heart.

12 hours

Congrats! You're halfway through your first day. CO level is back to normal helping your heart pump without distress.

24 hours

Reduced risk of coronary artery disease (CAD), the most common form of heart disease. Reduced risk of heart attack.

Keep Going: The Difference Three Days Makes

Illustration of the lungs

Great job! You're counting your progress in days not hours now. Your body is in full swing healing itself. Here's what to expect:

48 hours

Nerve endings start to heal increasing your ability to taste and smell. Lungs expel mucus and toxins from your system.

At this point, many people experience their toughest withdrawal symptoms. Symptoms include headaches, nausea, cramps, sweating, irritability, and even depression. For added help staying on track contact the National Cancer Institute's Quitline at 800-44U-QUIT.

72 hours

Breathing is easier. Energy increases. People with asthma may actually experience an increase in symptoms. This is common and usually resolves quickly. If symptoms persist, contact your doctor.

Leaps and Bounds: Weeks and Months of Being Smoke-Free

2 weeks – 1 month

Lungs are quickly repairing themselves. Dramatic breathing improvement. Heart attack risk decreases even more.

3 – 9 months

Immunity improves. No more "smoker's cough." Energy levels are back to normal.

12 months

Wow, you've made it an entire year without smoking! You are now 50% less likely to suffer from heart disease.

The Longview: A Life Without Smoking

A family taking a brisk walk through the park

By remaining smoke-free your body continues to heal itself in amazing ways.

5 years

Risk of having a stroke or getting cervical cancer are now the same as a non-smoker. Risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, and bladder are reduced by 50%.

10 years

Risk of dying from lung cancer is reduced by 50%.

15 years

Risk of heart disease is the same as a non-smoker. Risk of heart arrhythmia is the same as a non-smoker.

Smoking is a hard habit to break, but the health benefits are huge. Quitting smoking is one of the most important decision you can make to improve your overall wellness.