Your body and health is about to change for the better. But it is not all smooth sailing. Here, I get physical and talk you through ‘what to expect when you are expecting’ to be smoke-free.
So you have decided to quit smoking. Congratulations. This is, I promise, one of the most life-enhancing decisions you will ever make.
In the interest of full disclosure, if you are expecting to be able to tackle the marathon the moment you stub out your final cigarette or immediately feel the physical benefits, you are likely to be disappointed and before you know it, be reaching for that pack of cigs again.
Naturally, we want to avoid this.
You have put your body through a lot and a period of recovery is essential.
But, fear not. Everything that may feel like a step backwards in your physical health is a perfectly natural leap forward in your body’s recovery. Given that knowledge is power, I’m going to tell you everything that is going on inside your body as it restores to its former glory.
Less than 20 minutes after stubbing out your last cigarette, your heart rate will begin to drop back to a steady level (the speedy heart rate does not stop the moment you take your last puff.)
Fast-forward two hours. Now your heart and blood rate will have reached near normal levels. Your circulation will also begin to improve. But beware. This is the point where regular smokers begin to feel their first twangs of nicotine withdrawal. So how does that manifest itself in your body? Well, common effects include anxiety, tension, stress and occasionally an increase in appetite or disturbed sleep. But hang tight because it’s about to get better.
Just 12 hours after your last cigarette Carbon Monoxide – that poisonous gas which is one of the 4000 chemicals that enter your body when you smoke burning tobacco – starts to leave your body. Carbon Monoxide bonds to blood cells, preventing them from bonding with oxygen, which is why smokers experience so many cardiovascular problems. So as this toxic chemical makes it’s way out of your body, your blood oxygen levels begin to heighten. And, we are still on day one.
A mere 24 hours after quitting smoking, your heart begins to repair. So, after just 24 hours your chances of a heart attack steadily decrease. This is also the point when your lungs will start to rid themselves of all the built up mucus and debris that being a smoker so enthusiastically offered them. So, when you start coughing, do not despair, it is perfectly natural. For me, this was one of the physical aspects of quitting I found the hardest and was the cause of many failed attempts to pack up the smokes for good. Just remember, it may feel unpleasant but it’s all ‘better out than in’. Your lungs are giving themselves a much needed spring clean.
Just a day later, that’s 48 hours after your final cigarette, your deadened senses – specifically taste and smell – begin to come back to life. This is because your nerve endings are starting to re-grow and, in my personal opinion, is one of the most joyous parts of quitting. These nerve endings regenerate for months so everything just continues to smell and taste so much more pungent.
Three days after you quit smoking is the danger zone for those going cold turkey because at this point all traces of nicotine are out of your system. Now nicotine withdrawal symptoms are at an all time high and symptoms include nausea, headaches, frustration, anxiety along with emotional symptoms and that old demon – doubt. Fortunately, if you switch from smoking to vaping then you can still opt to get some nicotine and this stage can be fully sidestepped.
After 2 weeks, you will start to notice a real difference in physical health. That means running, sports or simply climbing several flights of stairs no longer leave you gasping for breath. This is because your body is now in full regeneration mode; your circulation is improving, and your lungs will start to function as they are meant to.
About a month after you quit, this is when you will really notice a marked improvement in your lungs. Inside the lungs are cilia – little hair-like organelles designed to push mucus out.These will start to awaken and move again, no longer weighed down by the tar in cigarettes. Now they can go back to doing their jobs, clearing out the lungs and helping reduce your risk of infection. This healthier your lungs are, the healthier they will continue to become and over the coming months, you will find your coughing and shortness of breath decreasing dramatically, allowing you to get fit (if you are that way inclined.)
The length of time it takes for your body to fully repair depends on the level of damage that has been done. But repair it will. For many heavy smokers, the body will continue to recover for up to 15 years.
And, thanks to AYR, the process is so much more bearable or, indeed, enjoyable, as you see your body coming back to life while still enjoying the things you loved about smoking.
So stay calm. Your body is going through some major changes and working hard to get you back to normal, but it’s thanking you all the way.