Here’s What Happens Over 25 Years After You Quit Smoking
There’s no question that smoking is detrimental to your health. Smoking can cause cancer, cavities, wrinkles, heart problems, emphysema, low estrogen levels, and hearing loss, among many other things. Studies indicate that over 68 percent of adult smokers in the United States want to quit. Unfortunately, this is a difficult battle, with new challenges every step of the way.
Quitting for a Few Hours
The hurdles of nicotine withdrawal are painfully prevalent even just a few hours after you’ve missed a typical cigarette break. Your body has become so accustomed to regular doses of nicotine. Refusing the usual dose causes anxiety, irritability, fatigue, headaches, and hunger. You may have trouble concentrating at work or difficulty sleeping. A feeling of sadness can settle over you within just three hours of withdrawal. These powerful drugs play with your brain’s chemistry.
The good news is that some very beneficial things are happening to your body during this period as well. Your heart rate and blood pressure will decrease in just 20 minutes. Within two hours, your peripheral circulation will improve. Burning tobacco releases carbon monoxide. This interferes with your blood cells’ ability to bond with oxygen and causes cardiovascular problems. After the first 12 hours, your body’s carbon monoxide levels return to normal. Though you can’t feel it yet, your body is already getting healthier.
The First Few Days
The first few days after you quit smoking are some of the most difficult. Anger and anxiety levels peak during the first 24 to 48 hours, and may not wane again for weeks. A condition nicknamed quitter’s flu may set in during this time. In addition to the withdrawal symptoms already mentioned, you may experience a dry mouth, sore throat, and sore tongue and gums. Tightness in the chest, coughing, and a post-nasal drip can feel a lot like a bad cold. Gas, constipation, and stomach pain add to the feeling of having this flu-like condition.
Things aren’t all bad, though. Your risk for heart attack begins dropping just 24 hours after you quit. Your sense of taste and smell begin to sharpen. Some people use an electronic cigarette to quit smoking, retaining some of the nicotine while eliminating other chemicals. Those using a vaping device may notice an increasing sensitivity to the flavors in their e-Liquid.
Making it Through a Month
72 hours after quitting, your body will be 100 percent nicotine-free. If you’re not up for an immediate drop-off, you can use electronic cigarettes to gradually cut back on your nicotine consumption, or use e-Liquids with a lower nicotine content until you’re on a zero-nicotine liquid or e-cig. Your cravings will gradually dissipate.
As your body heals, the anger and anxiety will dissipate as well. Blood circulation in the gums and teeth will improve along with lung function increasing, and your chronic cough will gradually go away.
A Year Without Smoking
The worst effects of withdrawal and quitters flu should subside within a few weeks. If you’re still experiencing these symptoms after three months, you should see a doctor to rule out other causes of these symptoms. Once you’ve weathered the worst of it, the first year can be a wonderful time of renewal. Insulin resistance normalizes in about two months. Within nine months, your lungs will have regrown cilia, which help reduce infections. By the end of the first year, your increased risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, and having a heart attack drops by half.
Five to Fifteen Years Later
After a whole cigarette-free year, you’ve crossed the most difficult hurdle to quitting. Cravings will be few and far between, typically triggered by a familiar place or smell that you used to associate with a smoke break. You’ll find it easier to move on every time this feeling hits. With the first year behind you, you may feel like your body has returned to normal, but a lot of physical recovery is still happening.
Five years after you quit, your risk of a subarachnoid hemorrhage will have declined 59 percent. Your risk of stroke and diabetes continues to fall. Ten years after quitting, your risk of lung cancer is 30 to 50 percent lower than that of a smoker. Your risk of death from lung cancer is also 50 percent lower than a smoker’s. The 10-year mark is when your diabetes risk finally reduces to that of someone who has never even smoked.
After 13 years, your risk of tooth loss is the same as a non-smoker. By 15 years, your coronary heart disease and pancreatic cancer risk levels are on par with that of a non-smoker as well. In many ways, your body is finally as healthy as it would be if you had never picked up a cigarette in the first place.
Up to Twenty-Five Years Post-Smoking
Once you hit the 20-to-25-year milestone, your days as a smoker are a distant memory. Your body is still thanking you, though. Your risk of pancreatic cancer and stroke reduces to that of a non-smoker. Women, who experience a higher risk of death from lung disease, return to the same risk levels as that of someone who never smoked.
On average, non-smokers live 14 years longer than smokers. The sooner you quit, the more years you can regain. If you quit when you are 30, you can add 10 years to your life expectancy. Quitting at 50 adds six years to your life expectancy, and quitting at 60 can give you an extra three years.
Smoking is highly addictive, but there are many products, resources, and strategies that can help you stop. If you’re ready to become a non-smoker and start reaping the numerous health benefits listed here, make a commitment and set the date today. Preparation is the key to success when you set out to quit smoking. Reward yourself along the way with good books, spa treatments, gourmet meals, or whatever you like best. Keep a list of all the reasons you’re ready to quit so you’ll have a constant reminder of what you want and all that you’re about to gain.