With over 7,000 chemicals released each time you light a cigarette, it’s no surprise that smoking is one of the leading causes of preventable deaths worldwide. But with 1.3 billion people actively smoking, what actually happens when you stop smoking.
Within the first 20 minutes of quitting, your blood pressure and heart rate return to normal. This is because the nicotine in cigarettes release Epinephrine and Norepinephrine, which increase your heart rate and narrow the blood vessels. These effects also caused smokers extremities to feel colder but by now your hands and feet have returned to their normal temperature.
Two hours in and the nicotine cravings begin causing moodiness, drowsiness, tense feelings and even difficulty sleeping because nicotine also releases more dopamine than normal. These are expected physiological responses to the decrease in its release.
Eight hours after quitting, the inhaled carbon monoxide clears allowing oxygen levels in the bloodstream to return to normal. Carbon monoxide and oxygen compete to bind to hemoglobin in your blood which stretches the circulatory system. So as it clears, there’s more room for oxygen. However, for long-term smokers this carbon monoxide exposure causes red blood cells to increase in size making the blood thicker and causing higher blood pressure and increased chances of developing blood clot.
24 hours after quitting, surprisingly coughing will actually increase. This is your body’s way of clearing out all the toxins from the lungs. Additionally, at this point, the risk of developing various coronary artery diseases decreases. All within 24 hours.
After 48 hours, when nicotine and its metabolites are completely eliminated from your body, damaged nerve endings begin to regrow. The tar and other chemicals and cigarettes leave fewer taste buds that are fatter with less blood vessels. They now begin to regain their sensitivity, making food tastes better. Although, chronic smokers may often have irreversibly damaged taste buds.
At the 72-hour mark, nicotine withdrawal peaks with headaches, nausea and cramps, as well as emotional symptoms like anxiety and depression. These symptoms can be seen with most addictive substances including caffeine. But after this period, the worst is officially over.
After one month, the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular diseases has already decreased substantially.
In three to nine months, the damaged Celia in the lungs are almost fully repaired. Celia are hairlike structures that help sweep away dust and debris. As a result, symptoms such as coughing and shortness of breath are almost completely eliminated.
In around one year, the risk of developing heart disease as a direct result of Atherosclerosis, which is deposits of fatty material or scar tissue from deteriorating arterial walls, decreases by almost one-half.
In 10 years, the chance of developing lung cancer decreases to half of someone who did not quit smoking.
And in 15 years time, the risk of heart attack decreases to the same as someone who has never smoked their entire life. Of course, this guideline is not definitive and the average amount you smoke per day or year will play a role in how well your body recovers. Unfortunately there will always be some irreversible damage to the lungs and increased susceptibility to developing various lung diseases and while quitting may be difficult the benefits greatly outweigh the initial withdrawal. Ultimately the best way to prevent this from happening is to not begin smoking at all.
Watch this video to understand more on this topic.