What happens when you quit smoking? Recovery period

  • When you quit smoking, you can get health benefits – a drop in blood pressure and heart rate – such as in 20 minutes.
  • One year after quitting smoking, the risk of coronary heart disease is 50% lower than that of a smoker.
  • Fifteen years after you quit smoking, your risk of dying from heart disease or a heart attack is comparable to someone who has never smoked.
  • Jason R. of this article McConnite, MD, MS, was medically reviewed by a family medicine physician and a clinical assistant professor at Texas A&M College of Medicine.
  • For more advice visit Insider’s Health Reference Library.

Nearly one in five deaths in the US are caused by cigarette smoking, and this is not surprising, because smoking cigarettes damages almost every body part. Luckily, anyone who wants to quit does not have to wait long to get the benefits – the body healing process begins 20 minutes after their last cigarette.

“It doesn’t really matter how long you’ve smoked”, Rachel B., associate professor of psychiatry and licensed clinical health psychologist at Virginia Commonwealth University. Says Hayes, who specializes in dependence on tobacco. “The length of smoking plays a role in how accustomed you are … but once you take out a cigarette, or whether you are getting nicotine, these begin to benefit.”

What happens when you quit smoking:

20 minutes

About 20 minutes after your last cigarette, your blood pressure and heart rate return to normal.

If you keep smoking, it can eventually cause high blood pressure – also known as high blood pressure – which can cause heart attacks, strokes, and severe damage throughout the body.

2 hour

A few hours later, the peripheral circulation – or blood flow throughout the body – begins to improve.

According to Hess, inhaling cigarette smoke inhibits blood vessels and restricts the flow of blood to the hands and feet. Legs and hands may begin to warm up as circulation improves immediately after quitting.

twelve hours

Twelve hours after your last cigarette, your carbon monoxide levels – an odorless, colorless toxic gas found in cigarettes – fall back to a normal range.

Carbon monoxide inhibits oxygen in the bloodstream which is able to reach the heart, lungs, brain and other vital organs. Additionally, increased levels of carbon monoxide from cigarettes can cause headaches, dizziness, and nausea.

This is also when the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal begin to set in it. These include:

  • Feeling of irritability
  • Lack of attention
  • Headache
  • hunger
  • Despair

Twenty four hours

The day after you quit smoking, your risk of heart attack decreases. It is caused by a combination of blood circulation, pulse and blood pressure, all of which help to perform heart function better.

However, around this time, coughing may increase as the body works to expel excess mucus from the lungs.

48 hours

Two days after you leave, your sense of taste and smell begins to improve as there is nerve endings in the nose and mouth.

During this time the symptoms of craving and withdrawal are intensified while the nicotine level in the body decreases.

72 hours

After 72 hours, lung function begins to improve as inflammation decreases. The bronchial tubes, the structures that deliver air into and out of the lungs, also begin to relax.

Cilia will also begin to regroup. These hair-like structures in the lungs help clear airways by removing mucus and bacteria. While cigarette smoke damages and hinders their ability to function, they are ready to leave once they leave.

one week

Nicotine craving usually begins to subside after a week without cigarettes and continues into the following weeks. Due to decrease in production of mucus, cough will decrease and cilia will be cured.

A month

After a month, lung functioning increases by 30%, and you may feel that it is easier to exercise or walk for longer distances, says Hess. You almost no longer experience nicotine cravings or cough fits.

Six months

Lung capacity continues to improve. You can see that you are not short of breath and have more energy, says Hayes.

One year

One year later, the risk of coronary heart disease is now 50% lower than that of a smoker. Former smokers may notice that they are less ill and can fight colds more quickly, helping protect the silo from re-sweeping infections.

10 years

The risk of lung disease is cut in half 10 years after quitting smoking.

Tobacco smoke thickens blood and narrows the arteries, both placing smokers at an increased risk for blood clots and strokes. After a decade of nicotine release, these effects reverse as your arteries widen and heal, and your risk of stroke also decreases significantly.

15 years

After 15 years without a cigarette, your risk of heart disease or heart attack is the same as someone who never smoked.


Although smoking can cause serious and life-threatening damage to your body, it does not take long for you to recover after quitting smoking. In addition to the obvious physical benefits – such as improving lung function and decreasing the risk of fatal heart attacks, lung diseases, or cancer – people who quit smoking are likely to experience improvements in their mental health.

“There are a lot of benefits that occur even within the first hour of leaving,” Dr. Says Hess. “Stress will improve, mental health can improve … There are many other things that are going to add to the physical healing process.”

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