Special Report

This Is Exactly What Happens to Your Body Once You Stop Smoking

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1. Heart rate and blood pressure return to normal

Some effects are more immediate than others. Elevated heart rate and blood pressure decrease within an hour after one’s last cigarette, Goldstein said. The risk of a heart attack lowers within a few months, but it takes a few years for it to be the same as for a person who has never smoked, he noted.

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2. Carbon monoxide is replaced with oxygen

The poisonous gas carbon monoxide, which is also produced in car exhaust, is absorbed into the blood through the lining of the lungs. CO binds with hemoglobin in the red blood cells, keeping them from carrying oxygen. This no longer happens when you stop smoking. Normal oxygen levels are restored within eight hours.

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3. Nerves start to heal

The lower oxygen levels in your blood as a result of smoking may have led to nerve damage. These impaired nerve endings start to grow again. And your taste buds are no longer numb, Goldstein noted.

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4. Lungs clear out the extra mucus

“Pulmonary function improves within a week and it rapidly gets better,” Goldstein said. In a recent study, quitters showed a significant nasal clearance improvement just one month

after the last cigarette. Smoking cessation improves respiratory symptoms, increases lung capacity, and prevents the fast decline in lung function seen in all smokers.

However, the lungs of a former smoker are never going to be the same as those of a person who has never smoked, Goldstein noted. What dramatically improves is the outcome of the treatment for lung cancer, he noted. “Drugs interact with the smoke, which makes them less effective,” Goldstein said. “A person who quits smoking has a much better chance of a successful chemo and surgery, and is less likely to develop a second cancer,” he added.

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5. Blood circulation improves

The risk of blood clots and heart attack goes down within about three months, Goldstein said. “The stress on blood vessels takes longer to be removed.” The blood is less sticky and also thinner, improving circulation to all parts of the body significantly. Veins and arteries are not constricted anymore. It takes about 10 years for blood vessels to completely regain their flexibility, research shows.

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