What happens to your body when you quit smoking

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Smoking is an established killer – it’s the leading cause of premature death and causes almost 6,000 deaths each year in Ireland. Since 1 in 5 people smoke in Ireland, the risk of developing cancers and respiratory disorders is especially high.

But smoking is also a notoriously difficult habit to kick. So, scary statistics acknowledged, what would quitting actually mean for you and would you actually be able to stick to it?

We take a look at the journey your body goes through as soon as you quit smoking.

20 minutes

Your blood pressure and pulse will return to normal 20 minutes after your final cigarette – good news for your heart!

2 hours

Nicotine withdrawal symptoms will start to kick in. These can include intense cravings, agitation, tension, anxiety, and drowsiness. Luckily, effective treatment to help relieve withdrawal symptoms.

8 hours

The level of carbon monoxide in your blood should fall by about half and your blood will return to a normal level of oxygenation. This is a crucial first step towards warding off serious heart problems.

24 hours

Withdrawal symptoms will reach their peak. Cravings themselves only last for a number of minutes, but they can be extremely frequent. They tend to be most severe during the first week of quitting, but should decrease during the second – if you stick to it, most of your symptoms should disappear after your first month of quitting.

2 days

Delicious news – damaged nerve endings will have started to regrow, so your ability to taste and smell should start to improve. Many people worry that they will put on weight after they quit smoking, but this is neither assured nor proven. However, the prospect of slight, temporary weight gain as you adjust to a life without smoking is ultimately better for your health than continuing to smoke.

3 days

All nicotine should have left your body by this point, so you will probably experience the peak of your withdrawal symptoms around this point. On the positive side, your breathing should become a lot easier as lung irritation caused by smoking reduces.

2-4 weeks

Nicotine withdrawal symptoms should have completely subsided – hooray!

4-12 weeks

Your circulation will also start to improve and return to normal, reducing the risk of life-threatening conditions like heart attacks and stroke.

3-9 months

Your lungs will be breathing a sigh of relief as their volume increases by around 10% across this period.

5 years

Another milestone – you will have reduced your risk of heart attack by 50%.

10-15 years

Your risk of lung cancer will have halved, and your risk of heart attack will be the same as someone who has never smoked. Phew!

Back to today

Prepare your mind and body for the challenge of quitting and see what you can achieve.

If you’ve tried in the past and know your weaknesses or just want extra support, boost your chances of quitting with stop smoking treatment.


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