Quit Smoking Timeline

Quitting smoking can be difficult but the good news is that when you do, your body will start to feel the benefits almost immediately. Understanding these benefits can help give you that extra bit of motivation you need to get to these quit milestones.

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What happens when you quit smoking?

Stop smoking

The immediate benefits

Your body will start to see the benefits of stopping smoking within only 20 minutes of extinguishing your last cigarette.

20 minutes: heart rate drops to normal

Within 20 minutes of smoking your last cigarette your heart rate will drop back to normal levels. Smoking is one the biggest contributors to cardiovascular disease. Smoking allows nicotine to be quickly delivered into the bloodstream, which then triggers a rush of adrenalin and an increase in your heart rate. But, within just 20 minutes of quitting smoking, your heart rate can adjust and will fall back to normal rates.

2 hours: Blood pressure reduces to normal

Each cigarette you smoke increases your blood pressure, but this is a temporary increase. Within only two hours of smoking your last cigarette, your blood pressure will also fall back to normal levels. You may also start to notice improvements in your circulation, particularly to your extremities; for example, noticing your hands and feet beginning to feel warmer.

12 hours: Blood oxygen levels increase

When you smoke, you're inhaling carbon monoxide into your lungs, which at high levels is toxic for the body. Carbon monoxide attaches itself to your blood cells and prevents oxygen from doing so. This leads to low blood oxygen levels, a condition known as Hypoxemia, which can cause symptoms such as shortness of breath as well as putting you at risk of serious cardiovascular problems. But, within just 12 hours of stopping smoking, your blood oxygen levels will have increased to normal levels and the level of carbon monoxide in your bloodstream will have started to decrease.

24 hours: Your risk of heart attack starting to drop

As previously mentioned, smoking in one of the biggest factors contributing to cardiovascular disease. In fact, it's estimated that your risk of coronary artery disease is 70% higher if you smoke. But, within just one day of stopping smoking, your risk of coronary artery disease, stroke and heart attack will have already started to decrease.

48 Hours: Taste and smell return

Smoking damages the nerve endings that we rely on to taste and smell. But, according to research, within just 48 hours of stopping smoking these nerve endings will start re-growing and your sense of taste and smell will start to heighten.

3 Days: All nicotine will have left your body

Within three days all the nicotine will have left your body and you will be nicotine free. This can coincide with a temporary increase in withdrawal symptoms as the body adjusts to the absence of nicotine. Aside from the withdrawals, you should notice a lot of other positive benefits around Day 3. Your bronchial tubes will have relaxed making breathing easier and your lung capacity will be starting to improve.

The medium-term benefits

Over the next few months after quitting smoking your body will experience numerous benefits, as it undergoes a huge restorative process to reverse the damage of smoking.

2-3 Weeks: Lung function improves

Within two to three weeks of quitting, your heart and lung function will start restoring themselves and you'll notice a significant improvement in your lung capacity. In fact, by this point your lung capacity can improve by as much as 30%. You'll find exercise easier and your circulation improved.

1-9 Months: Lung function improves

Between month one and month nine of stopping smoking your lungs will go through a dramatic restoration process, repairing the damage done by smoking. Cilia are small hair-like structures in the lungs, which help fight infection and clear the lungs by pushing out mucus. Smoking damages these structures, which increases smokers' risk of developing lung infections.

During this period, the cilia will begin to regrow and you'll see your lung function and performance improve; as well as your risk of infection, shortness of breathe, coughing and congestion decrease. You'll also start experiencing less fatigue and will enjoy an overall boost in your body's energy levels.

1 Year: Your risks are halved

By the end of your first year as a non-smoker the benefits will be immense. Your body will have gone through a huge transformation and restoration process. And, by the twelve-month mark you will have decreased your risk of coronary artery disease, stroke and heart attack by 50%.

The long-term benefits

As the years go by after quitting smoking, the body will continue to repair and gradually your risks for several conditions will drop to those of someone who never smoked. By,

  • Year 5, your risk of a subarachnoid haemorrhage will have dropped by 59% and if you're a woman your risk of diabetes will be the same as someone who never smoked
  • Year 5-15, your risk of a stroke will drop to the same as someone who never smoked
  • Year 10, your risk of developing lung cancer will have halved
  • Year 13, your risk of smoking induced tooth loss drops, your risk of tooth loss is now the same as someone who never smoked
  • Year 15, your risk of coronary heart disease and pancreatic cancer is now that of a person who never smoked
  • Year 20, your excess risk for all smoking related causes will have dropped to that of a person who never smoked, if you're female, including cancer and lung disease.