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Quitting smoking – let’s take a look at the healthy changes that occur

The first year of giving up cigarettes can be hard – not only do you have cravings to contend with, but a lot of your habits may have to change. That said, it’s always a good time to quit smoking. Here’s a timeline of all the positive changes your body goes through in the first year after giving up cigarettes. 

Day one

Just twenty minutes after your last cigarette, your blood pressure will get lower and your circulation will improve. Within eight hours the carbon monoxide (poison gas) level in your bloodstream drops and your oxygen level increases. After 1-2 days, all the carbon monoxide will have left the body. This increases the level of oxygen to your heart, which relieves a lot of the pressure on your heart. 

You may notice the cravings get stronger as nicotine withdrawal gradually kicks in. Cravings last less than ten minutes so, stay strong. Try distracting yourself until the cravings pass. Chewing some gum or sipping water can help. 

Day two and three

A few days after quitting, your nerve endings begin the healing process and you’ll probably notice an improvement in your sense of taste and smell. Your lungs clear out and the nicotine should be entirely gone from your body. 

After 72 hours your breathing will improve and your energy levels will increase as your lungs start to recover. During this time, you may experience withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety, hunger, fatigue, headaches or dizziness. Distract yourself to get through the cravings. As things get more difficult, consider creating a support network of people you can lean on.

Up to three months

In the first three months, your lungs get stronger and your blood flow improves. Your lung capacity can increase by up to 30%. Your risk of a heart attack significantly reduces and you can probably exercise for longer without getting winded. During this time, you’ll still get cravings and certain triggers may make you want a cigarette. Stick to your plan and ask your loved ones for help if you need it. 

Up to nine months

After the first three months, you should be able to take deeper and clearer breaths. Some parts of your lungs that were damaged by smoking will be repairing themselves, meaning they are gaining back their ability to push mucus out effectively – which should reduce the likelihood of you getting as many chest infections.

After a year

By the end of your first year you will know the things that trigger your cravings and how to distract yourself from them. A year after your last cigarette your risk of heart disease decreases by half. Keep this in mind, it might help as motivation to keep you going when times are tough! Especially since after 10 years most people’s risk of heart attack drops down to almost the same risk as a non-smoker. Within five years the risks of developing smoking related cancers such as cancer of the larynx (voice box) and pancreas (organ that produces insulin) also decrease significantly. 

You’ll feel healthier for years to come if you kick the habit for good.

For more information about quitting smoking contact the HSE Quitline on 1800 201 203 or visit

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