So you quit smoking what’s next
Quitting smoking can improve your health dramatically, but expect withdrawal and a whole range of symptoms first.
Once you put the cigarettes aside, your body will begin to change. Some changes are immediate, others take longer.
Smoking kills, but you may not realize how dramatically quitting smoking improves the way you look and feel.
You will experience withdrawal, but you will also see positive changes, from improvements in your breathing to the way you look. There are changes in your body too, although you can’t see them, that doesn’t mean they aren’t happening.
Here’s what to expect when you quit and exactly what happens to your body.
- 1 Physical withdrawal
- 2 Psychological withdrawal
- 3 The blood circulation begins to improve
- 4 You can gain weight
- 5 Your heart is improving
- 6 Let go of your stroke risk
- 7 Breathe easily
- 8 You will cough
- 9 Smile! Your teeth will become whiter
- 10 Lighter skin
- 11 One for the women – your breasts will change
- 12 Everything smells better
- 13 Your sense of taste
- 14 The immune system is strengthened
- 15 Instant manicure
- 16 Lush hair
- 17 What happens after your last cigarette? From 20 minutes to over 10 years later
That’s the hard part. Nicotine is addicting. When you stop taking it it’s difficult.
When you get a cold turkey it can be tricky at first. Physical symptoms include headache, dizziness, fatigue, hunger, nausea, and cough.
You will find that you have an increased appetite and trouble sleeping.
Don’t worry, all of this will stop in time. It can take a few weeks to nine months depending on how long you’ve smoked.
Mood swings, confusion, depressing thoughts, reduced attention span, tremors, irritability, and cravings – for food and cigarettes.
However, this won’t take forever, so wait.
This can fade within two weeks – and the symptoms will be gone within nine months.
The blood circulation begins to improve
It only takes two hours for your blood flow to improve dramatically (see below for the stages).
Nicotine increases your heart rate and blood pressure, and within hours of you stopping – sometimes within half an hour – your heart rate and blood pressure decrease to a normal, healthy rate.
If you have had cold toes and fingers, you may feel like you are slowly warming up.
You can gain weight
As your cravings perk up and you have an appetite, you can eat more – and gain weight.
This is normal as you are withdrawing from nicotine, which suppresses hunger.
Nicotine hits the brain and activates the “fight or flight” defense against stress. This releases stored fats into the bloodstream. As a result, smokers are not often hungry and may experience blood sugar fluctuations after quitting.
You may not gain weight, and if you are already switching to a healthier lifestyle you may not see any change.
Your heart is improving
Twelve hours after you stop, the amount of carbon monoxide in your blood will decrease, which means that the amount of oxygen in your blood will increase.
About a year after you quit, your chances of having a heart attack and heart disease are reduced to half that of a smoker.
The other benefits increase over time. It takes 15 years for your risk of heart disease to decrease to that of a nonsmoker.
Let go of your stroke risk
Smoking increases your risk of stroke by narrowing blood vessels, which means that less blood gets to your brain.
Depending on how long you’ve smoked, it can take about 18 months to 15 years to get back to normal.
The lungs immediately begin to improve. It can take a few weeks to a few months. You breathe better and can exercise more easily.
You will cough
As you find that your breathing improves, you will find your cough more. It might seem strange, but it is your lungs that clean themselves.
It will decrease in about nine months. When using air purifiers, avoid air polluted areas and try breathing exercises that can help.
Smile! Your teeth will become whiter
There’s one more reason to smile: your teeth are brown from smoking and so naturally turn white if you don’t blow away.
Clean up smiles and leave cigarettes white longer without cigarettes.
Those yellow spots will fade away, lower your risk of gum recession, and make your breath smell better.
Your lips will also see the benefits as you will have fewer burns or sores.
The phrase you are shining will actually apply. The chemicals in cigarettes destroy the structure of your skin – elastin and collagen. If damaged, the skin loosens.
Nicotine also narrows blood vessels and limits blood flow to the skin. That means dull and wrinkled skin.
While quitting won’t reverse wrinkles, it can slow skin aging and prevent further damage.
One for the women – your breasts will change
Smoking also affects your breasts. Chemicals in cigarettes cause the skin to sag. So giving up means less slackening.
Smoking has also been linked to breast cancer.
Everything smells better
Wake up and smell the roses! Well, not literally. Smoking clouds the sense of smell. So when you stop everything smells better. It only takes a few days for the change to kick in.
Your sense of taste
The smell isn’t the only sense that improves – the taste too. Again, you will find there is a change within a few days. Smokers have a decreased sense of taste. So wait for these buds to regenerate.
Enjoy your coffee, your meals and the good food.
The immune system is strengthened
Smoking suppresses the immune system. You may get sick more often and stay sick longer. Smokers can also have autoimmune reactions. This is where your own system is attacking your lung tissue rather than fighting the infection.
If you stop, the risk goes down. So when you get that cold you will see a faster recovery time.
It’s like a free manicure. Those yellow spots will go away and your nails will look better.
Pay attention to the line between your new and old growth. Your hands will also improve as they age less.
Do you want luscious locks? Then stop. Smokers lose more hair as the chemicals affect your curls too.
Your hair follicles are affected because you have no blood flow. Get thicker, more luscious looking hair and quit.
What happens after your last cigarette? From 20 minutes to over 10 years later
The human body is an amazing thing. Only 20 minutes after that last cigarette, she begins to recover.
Nicotine, the addicting chemical in smoking, acts as a stimulant and gives that important “kick”.
Not long after the last cloud of smoke, heart rate and blood pressure return to normal after this high.
This is the testing time when most smokers reach for another cigarette.
The effects of withdrawal are strong as nicotine leaves the bloodstream and food cravings occur.
Anxiety and stress are highest. The feeling of stress associated with smoking cessation is usually not stress – it is a sign of withdrawal.
Therefore, it is not true that smoking relieves stress, it only satisfies cravings.
Research shows that non- and ex-smokers feel less stressed than smokers.
Two to three days
If you choose to have a ‘cold turkey’, there will be no more nicotine in the body, but it will take a while to get used to this new feeling. The use of nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) such as chewing gum, patches, or e-cigarettes provides the body with nicotine and allows smokers to gently quit smoking, making it easier to quit cigarettes.
Taste and smell receptors have a chance to heal, which means that food has never tasted this good!
If you make it smoke free for a week, the slackers are past the worst.
It is perfectly normal to think about smoking regularly – it is now a case of mind over matter as the body no longer physically craves tobacco.
Many slackers have a nasty cough, but that’s perfectly normal – it’s the way the lungs clean themselves as much as possible.
The blood flow, especially to the gums and teeth, returns to normal levels, just like in a non-smoker.
Now that the mouth is not bombarded with smoke, tissue damaged by gum disease can recover.
Withdrawals can range from anger, anxiety, insomnia, and mild depression, but by the first month these feelings should have subsided. If not, a trip to the family doctor is recommended. Quitters who make it smoke-free for up to four weeks are five times more likely to stay smoke-free forever.
The risk of a heart attack has gradually decreased. As lung function improves too, climbing stairs becomes a little easier every day.
Walking long distances is much easier now. Bad cough should be gone, but if not, it is imperative to see a doctor as it can be a sign of something more sinister.
Fatigue and shortness of breath are a thing of the past.
Cilia, air sacs in the lungs, have grown back and healed some of the damage caused by smoking, but the lungs will never be 100% healthy.
Ex-smokers are 50% less likely to have a heart attack, heart disease, or stroke within a year of quitting.
Diabetes is a disease that long-term smokers can develop. Make it smoke free for five years and the risks of getting it are the same as with non-smokers.
Five to 10 years
Amazing! The risk of a stroke is now the same as that of a non-smoker. Smoke makes blood sticky and difficult to move around the body. This is why smokers are much more likely to have strokes.
Lung cancer is the greatest risk to a smoker’s life. Within 10 years of quitting, the chance of death from lung cancer is half that of a smoker. The risk of other cancers such as oral and pancreatic cancer has decreased significantly.
After 10 years
When you smoke, the heart pumps harder to pump smoky blood, and this leads to an increased risk of heart attacks and disease. After 10 years of non-smoking, the risk of heart disease is the same as that of a non-smoker.