The benefits of quitting smoking include huge financial, social and cosmetic gains. However, the most important benefit is to enable the body to regain good health, and the process begins almost immediately after you extinguish the final cigarette. A smoker will experience many rewarding gains during the first few weeks after quitting; many others may go unnoticed, but are vital components for the possibility of a long, healthy life.
Twenty minutes after you put out the last cigarette, your pulse rate and blood pressure will return to normal. After eight hours, the remaining nicotine in your bloodstream will be only 6.25 percent of your normal peak levels. After 12 hours have passed, your blood oxygen and carbon monoxide levels will have returned to normal. At around 24 hours after the last cigarette, you will feel probably experience high anxiety levels, but after the first day has passed this will begin to improve.
Around the 48-hour mark, you will find your senses of smell and taste begin to return. It is also around this time your irritability and feelings of anger will be at their worst--by the third day, these emotions should subside a little. Smoking causes much damage to nerve endings, but by day three they will start to regrow.
After the end of the third day, you should feel less irritable and angry. You may notice a small increase in appetite, and you will be able to breathe more easily. You should also experience an increase in energy. Your body is now 100 percent free from nicotine, and any cravings you experience from now will be triggered by habit rather than physical withdrawal. Towards the end of the first week, you will probably still experience around three craving episodes per day. Timing these cravings can help them to evaporate very quickly.
After five days, you should notice a definite improvement in the appearance of your skin. It will have lost its unattractive gray pallor, and be replaced by a healthier tone as circulation begins to improve.
After 10 days, you will encounter, on average, only two short craving periods a day. Blood circulation is returning to normal, and is similar to that of a non-smoker. Your lung function will have also increased.
During the first month, your lung function will continue to improve. Your feelings of irritability, anxiety and anger should have cleared completely, and you will be rejoicing in your decision to quit.
Your brain acetylcholine receptor counts become up-regulated when nicotine is present. Toward the end of the first month, they will have down-regulated sufficiently to be on par with levels of the brains of non-smokers.
First Six Months
During the first six months, your risk of having a heart attack has already started to drop. Your lung function continues to increase, and you should find exercise and walking easier. If you had a smoker's cough, it is now likely to have disappeared.
During the first year, any sinus congestion that was related to smoking will have diminished or be clear. The tiny hair-like structures known as cilia will have regrown, increasing the lung's capabilities of handling mucus. You will have increased energy.
First Two Years and Beyond
After the first year, your risk of having a heart attack is less than half compared to a smoker. After five years, your stroke risk is equal to that of a non-smoker. After 10 years, the average smoker's risk of lung cancer is half that of a smoker. After 13 years, your risk of experiencing tooth loss due to smoking is non-existent. After 15 years, your risk of heart disease is equal to that of a non-smoker. After 20 years, any risk of becoming ill due to smoking is negligible.