You probably already know that smoking is an unhealthy habit. It can affect a person’s entire body, contributing to some serious health risks, including high blood pressure, stroke and heart disease.
The good news is that quitting smoking could help turn your poor health around. In fact, the benefits of quitting may start even sooner than you think! Within just 24 hours, the body starts to repair some of the damage caused by smoking, with even bigger health improvements following in the weeks and years to come.
In the first 24 hours…
After 20 minutes without a cigarette, your blood pressure may start to lower. The heart rate also returns to normal and circulation may start to improve.
After 8 hours, your risk of heart attack starts to fall. This risk should continue to decrease the longer you stay smoke-free.
After 12 hours, the body rids itself of the excess carbon monoxide inhaled through smoking. As your carbon monoxide level returns to normal, the body’s oxygen levels may start to increase.
In the first week…
One day after quitting smoking, your risk of heart disease caused by smoking-induced high blood pressure may begin to drop. As your oxygen levels continue to rise, you may find that exercise and other physical activities are easier than they were before.
After 2 days, you may notice a heightened sense of smell and better taste as these damaged nerves begin to heal.
In the first year…
After 1 month, your lung function may begin to increase. You might notice that you cough less often and may no longer feel short of breath.
In the first 3 months of quitting smoking, blood circulation continues to improve. This helps your organs, including the skin, function better. Healthy skin helps the body fight off bacteria and infection.
After 9 months, the lungs may have healed significantly. Cilia—hair-like structures inside the lungs—that were damaged by smoking are likely working better. You may experience fewer lung infections as a result.
In the first decade…
After 1 year, your risk for coronary heart disease should decrease by half! This risk may continue to drop the longer you stay smoke-free.
After 5 years, arteries and blood vessels that were narrowed by smoking begin to widen. This means the blood is less likely to clot, lowering your risk of stroke.
Further into the future…
Ten years after quitting smoking, the risk of developing lung cancer is cut in half compared to someone who still smokes. The risk of developing mouth, throat or pancreatic cancer is also significantly reduced by this point.
After 15 years, your likelihood of developing heart disease and pancreatic cancer may be about the same as a non-smoker. The risk of having a heart attack could also be the same as a person who has never smoked.
After 20 years, the risk of dying from smoking-related causes, including lung disease and cancer, may even drop to the same level as someone who has never smoked in their life!
A healthier tomorrow
Quitting smoking may be one of the best changes you could make for your health. If you’d like to quit, but are having trouble, there are resources available to help. Talk to your doctor, or visit the Heart Foundation NZ website to get started!
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is of general nature, and does not take into account your personal situation. You should consider whether the information is appropriate to your needs or seek professional advice, where necessary.