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How Quickly Does Your Body Repair Itself After You Quit Smoking?

By May Wilkerson 03/11/16

Looking for an incentive to quit nicotine? Research shows that the body begins to repair itself almost immediately after you quit smoking. 

How Quickly Does Your Body Repair Itself After You Quit Smoking?
photo via Shutterstock

Smoking does a number on your body, in case you missed the memo.

Tobacco smoke can harm almost every region of your body—from your inner ears to your circulatory system—and all of your organs, including your lungs and heart. But the good news is, if you quit, your body goes into repair mode surprisingly quickly. Research has shown that the physical benefits of quitting smoking set in just minutes after you stub out that last cigarette. 

Just how quickly does your body restore itself? The Independent created a timeline for this past No Smoking Day, an annual awareness day run by the British Heart Foundation, to give you an idea:

20 minutes after your last cigarette 

While you’re inhaling tobacco smoke, smoke and nicotine enter your bloodstream and boost your blood pressure and heart rate. After you finish a cigarette, your heart rate and blood pressure return to normal within minutes.

8 hours

Carbon monoxide, aka the toxic gas that seeps from defective appliances, is one of the 4,000 chemicals you inhale when you smoke burning tobacco. It takes about eight hours after you smoke a cigarette for carbon monoxide to begin leaving your body, allowing oxygen levels to return to normal.

24 hours

Smoking causes mucus and other debris to build up in your lungs. It takes about a day after your last cigarette for your lungs to clear out.

48 hours

Nicotine is the main active ingredient in tobacco, and the primary reason cigarettes are so addictive. Combined with tobacco, it can also dull your senses, affecting your ability to smell and taste. Just two days after you stop smoking, nicotine is eliminated from your body and your senses start to heighten—so you can fully experience that bacon, egg and cheese sandwich.

2 to 12 weeks

If you’ve ever been a smoker and hit the gym, you know that the habit makes physical activity much harder. Smoking affects your blood circulation, which can also do long-term damage to your overall health. Within just a few weeks of quitting, you may find doing a few miles on the treadmill, or walking up a flight of stairs, just got a whole lot easier.

3 to 9 months

Months after you put down cigarettes, your body is still hard at work repairing damage to your organs, including your lungs. After about three to nine months, you may have lost that smoker's cough and find that you’re breathing much easier.

1 year

Smoking damages the lining of the arteries and causes buildup of a fatty substance known as atheroma, which narrows the arteries. This can lead to heart attacks, strokes and angina. Just a year after you quit, your risk of heart disease decreases to half that of a smoker.

Still need a reason to quit?

“Smoking causes at least 14 different types of cancer, including mouth, bowel and bladder cancer, and is linked to around 64,500 cases of cancer each year in the UK,” Thea Cunningham, Cancer Research UK’s health information officer, told the Independent. “When a cigarette burns, it releases a dangerous cocktail of over 5,000 different chemicals; many of these chemicals are poisonous and more than 70 may cause cancer.”

Quitting smoking by age 40 can add a decade to your life, a 2013 study found. But it’s really never too early or too late to quit. "We already know that quitting smoking is the single best thing you can do for your heart health and it doesn’t matter how old you are or how long you’ve been smoking, as soon as you quit you’ll start to get the health benefits," said Cunningham.

For more info on nicotine addiction and for help quitting, check out these resources.


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May Wilkerson.jpg

May Wilkerson is a writer, comic and Managing Editor @someecards. Co-host of the podcast Crazy; In Bed w/alyssalimp. She is also the top Google result for "insufferable lunatic." Follow this insufferable lunatic on Twitter.

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