As the new year approaches, many of us are setting resolutions for a healthier lifestyle. Maybe you’re considering starting a new meal plan, or trying a new exercise routine. And these are fantastic ways to help improve your health. But if you smoke, there is one huge step you can take toward a healthier lifestyle: quitting smoking. It’s never too late to quit smoking, and the health benefits are immediate: after just one day of quitting, a person’s blood pressure begins to decrease, reducing the risk of heart disease.1 In this blog, we’re reviewing some of the milestones and benefits of quitting smoking, as well as tips to get you started on a healthier track.
Read More: Heart Health Resolutions Checklist
Quitting Smoking: A Timeline Of Benefits
There’s no getting around it: quitting smoking is hard. Not only does your brain have to become accustomed to the lack of nicotine, but also you’ll have to get used to a daily routine without the rhythm of smoking.2 Despite these challenges, the benefits of quitting smoking are worth it - and the health benefits are known to occur within hours of smoking your last cigarette.
Within 12 Hours
After just 20 minutes of smoking your last cigarette, your heart rate and blood pressure can begin to drop. And within twelve hours, your body cleanses itself of excess carbon monoxide. That’s no small thing: carbon monoxide is a known toxin and gas present in cigarette smoke that interferes with oxygen entering the lungs. So once your body has cleared the excess carbon monoxide from cigarettes, your body’s oxygen levels increase.3
Within 24 to 72 Hours
Significant health benefits may be experienced at this point. One day after smoking your last cigarette, the risk of heart attack from smoking-induced high blood pressure begins to decrease. Also, increased oxygen levels in the body make physical activity and exercise easier. And within two days, nerve endings start to regrow - an often under-recognized benefit of quitting smoking. This means you might notice new sensations in your fingertips, and might even become more aware of tastes and smells. And within 72 hours of quitting smoking, breathing more easily is often experienced as the air exchange between carbon dioxide and oxygen becomes easier.4
Within 1 Week
At this point, you’re already likely feeling some real health benefits from quitting smoking. You might have more energy and find yourself breathing more easily. And at the one week point, you’ve reached a major milestone in your journey: smokers who reach one week without smoking are nine times as likely to quit for good.5
Read More: 5 Reasons Why You Should Get Heart Screenings
Tips For Quitting Smoking
While quitting smoking has an enormous list of health benefits, it’s also extremely challenging. You might experience headaches, irritability, anxiety, and trouble sleeping.6 But by making use of a few strategies and techniques, you can improve your chances of quitting for good and reaping the benefits of a healthier lifestyle.
- Eat a balanced diet: And avoid skipping meals! Your body is doing a ton of work, especially during the first few days of quitting smoking. By nourishing yourself with healthy - and enjoyable - food, you’ll make sure your body has the energy it needs.7
- Get moving: You’ll probably experience some pretty intense cravings after quitting smoking. Thankfully, exercise can keep your body and mind occupied until the craving passes - and exercise helps you cope with stress, too. Consider taking a walk or hike, taking a dance class, or doing yoga.8
- Have a support system: Quitting smoking is hard, but you don’t have to go it alone. Consider having a friend or family member on-call who you can reach when you’re feeling stressed or anxious. Maybe that person could join you for a walk, or just talk on the phone until a craving passes. Make sure your support system is set up in advance of quitting.
- Reward yourself: You’re doing something really hard, so it’s important to reward yourself when you reach important milestones along the way. Give yourself small rewards each day, like a new audiobook. And when you reach bigger milestones, like one or two weeks smoke-free, consider enjoying a nice dinner out with friends or a weekend getaway. Remember to celebrate your successes every day.9
Read More: 14 Ways To Move More Throughout The Day
Quitting Smoking Is A Journey
Remember, quitting smoking is all about starting a lifelong journey toward improved health. It’s ok to stumble - just pick right back up where you left off. You’ll probably find strategies that work for you on your journey to quit smoking, and you’ll have your own motivations. Keep those personal goals and motivations in mind as you work toward quitting, and remember that it’s never too late to start living a healthier life.