Quitting smoking is incredibly difficult. Cigarettes are addictive, so the amount of control necessary to battle the cravings, especially in the early days, weeks, and months, can be overwhelming. But the benefits to your health occur sooner than you might think, regardless of how many cigarettes you puff daily or how long you’ve smoked.
How much do you smoke?
Your pack-year history is calculated by multiplying the number of packs of cigarettes you smoke daily by the number of years you’ve smoked. One pack year is equivalent to smoking one pack of cigarettes (20 cigarettes) daily for one year. Whether you smoke two packs a day for 10 years or one pack a day for 20 years, the pack history in both cases is 10 pack years.
Much like after being two days into a diet, you may feel more in control. Because smoking damages the nerves that help you smell and taste, you may begin to experience the flavor of food better and to smell more odors. Your nerves are healing.
72 hours after you quit smoking
At this point your body is beginning to feel a diminished level of nicotine. This is a good thing, but nicotine withdrawal can cause symptoms such as moodiness, irritability, headaches, and cravings. You might need to consider using an over-the-counter nicotine replacement product, such as a skin patch, chewing gum, or lozenges if your symptoms are significant.
30 days after you quit smoking
Not smoking for a full month is a big deal. My patients often tell me that their coughing has decreased and they feel like they are breathing better. That’s because the lungs are beginning to heal at this point. You may notice less shortness of breath, especially on exertion. You can begin a running program and feel less compromised because oxygenation is so much better. Over the next three months, you will continue to enjoy those health improvements.
9 months after you quit smoking
Cilia in the lungs are small hairlike structures that help to push out mucus. They also help in the fight against respiratory infections. At this point the cilia are significantly healed and more functional because daily smoke is no longer invading your lungs. You may notice you’re experiencing fewer respiratory infections.
1 year after you quit smoking
This is a huge milestone. Typically your heart health profile is significantly improved and your risk of coronary heart disease is cut by half. Heart attack risk and stroke risk are significantly lowered. Those improvements will continue as long as you don’t smoke. From my experience, if you can make it to year five, it’s likely you will have quit smoking for good.