You’ve been smoke-free for one year — congratulations! Your body is already thanking you in a number of ways. 12 months after quitting smoking, several physical and psychological changes have taken place in your body. These changes are indications that your body is returning to health and functioning properly again. So, what exactly are you experiencing 12 months after quitting smoking? Let’s take a look.
12 Months Smoke-Free: What Happens During The First Year
While quitting smoking presents a number of challenges, it’s also a very rewarding process. Some changes in your body are actually evident within the first minutes of quitting.
When you smoke, the nicotine content in the cigarettes causes your heart rate and blood pressure to increase. We know this elevates the risk of heart disease and stroke. In the first 20 minutes after you quit, your blood pressure and heart rate come back down to normal levels again.
Your body is already better for quitting — after just 20 minutes.
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Within about six hours, the carbon monoxide levels in the body reduce and sit at safe, healthy levels again. At the three-day mark, your bloodstream has cleared itself of nicotine.
You may not have been focusing on these positive changes during the first three days after quitting, as this is when your withdrawal symptoms are at their most unpleasant. It can be helpful to reflect on these changes now so that you can fully appreciate the world of good you’ve done for your health.
Within a week, your sense of smell and taste will have improved significantly. Inhaling cigarette smoke can damage the function of your taste buds and smell receptors, so after one week smoke-free, your favourite foods are likely to taste even better.
One month after quitting, the appearance of your skin is likely to have improved. You may notice less yellowing around your teeth and fingernails. Fast-forward to three months, and your circulation and lung function improves.
Over the first nine months, you’ll also notice your asthma symptoms and breathing issues steadily reduce. You may notice you’re able to exercise more vigorously than you could when you smoked, or find you’re less out of breath completing day-to-day activities.
As you can see, your body has already undergone a number of positive changes within the last 12 months. You may have noticed some of these changes, while others may have passed you by. Take a moment to congratulate yourself on taking a huge step towards a healthier lifestyle and future.
Now you’re at the one-year mark, what changes can you expect to see next?
12 Months After Quitting Smoking
At this point, noticeable changes will begin setting in, and your risk of disease reduces significantly.
The risk of coronary heart disease increases drastically if you smoke. So, 12 months after quitting smoking, are you still at major risk of coronary heart disease?
Incredibly, when you’ve gone 12 months without smoking, your risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) is half of what it was when you were smoking.
This means your risk of blood clotting and heart attack from CHD lowers, too.
You’ll also notice clear improvements in your lung function and stress levels, and you may notice weight gain or fluctuations.
Lungs After 12 Months of No Smoking
12 months after quitting smoking, you’re likely to experience less coughing and shortness of breath. This is because the cilia in your lungs begin to function normally again.
The cilia are very small, hair-like structures that line the lungs. Their primary role is to rid the lungs of debris, bacteria, and viruses so that we can breathe deeply and properly.
When you smoke, the chemicals within the cigarettes damage your cilia and collect in your lungs. The cilia then have to work harder to clear it. This often results in a cough, known as the smoker’s cough.
The good news is that the cilia regain movement when you haven’t smoked for a while. In fact, the cilia are so resilient that they will begin moving when you go just a few hours without smoking. The cilia often begin functioning again while you’re sleeping, which is why many smokers find their cough worse in the morning. When you smoke the next morning, the cilia become damaged again.
After a whole year without smoking, the cilia have regained normal function again. They are self-healing and have worked at repairing themselves from the minute you stopped smoking 12 months ago. They are now effectively clearing your lungs of debris, therefore reducing your risk of toxic build-up and lung infections.
Stress After 12 Months Without Smoking
A research study found that people who quit smoking 12 months ago experienced fewer episodes of stress and restlessness.
It’s believed that people who quit experienced less stress overall because they no longer suffered from the nicotine withdrawal symptoms that occur in between each cigarette.
Cigarettes contain nicotine, which is a highly addictive chemical. When you smoke, your body becomes accustomed to receiving a regular dose of nicotine during the day. If your body doesn’t receive the hit of nicotine it craves, you’ll begin to experience nicotine withdrawal symptoms.
These symptoms actually begin as soon as you put out your cigarette. When you haven’t smoked for a few hours, your body sends you signals that it’s craving nicotine. You may start to feel anxious, restless, or irritable. These very symptoms prompt you to reach for your next cigarette.
At the one-year mark, you are no longer physically or emotionally dependent on nicotine. You will no longer be experiencing the stress and restlessness that occurred daily in between cigarettes when you smoked.
This significant reduction in your stress levels is beneficial for your overall mental and physical health.
Weight Gain After 12 Months Smoke-Free
Wondering why you’ve gained weight since stopping smoking 12 months ago? You aren’t alone.
Many people experience weight gain after they quit, however, in most cases, this is a sign that your body is returning to a healthy state.
The nicotine content in cigarettes speeds up the metabolism, which means your body burns calories quicker. Nicotine also suppresses appetite. So, when you smoke, you’re likely eating less and burning more calories, which results in weight loss. Of course, the weight loss you experience due to smoking is not an indication of health — it signals that the cigarette toxins are interrupting your body’s natural processes.
When you quit smoking, your metabolism slows back down to its normal rate. You may also feel hungrier because nicotine is no longer suppressing your appetite. You might also be exercising more regularly due to better lung function, and eating more as a result. All of these changes can cause weight gain.
A study showed that smoking resulted in an average increase of 4 to 5kg in body weight 12 months after quitting. Most weight gain occurred in the first 3 months after quitting. However, weight changes were varied among participants. 16% of quitters had actually lost weight 12 months after quitting, while 13% had gained more than 10kg.
While you may be frustrated by weight gain, in most cases, this signals your body is functioning normally again and returning to a healthy state.
For some people, food is used to cope with quitting smoking. If you feel this may be an issue for you, check in with your doctor. They will be able to provide you with coping strategies to ensure you’re maintaining a balanced diet.
What Happens Next?
Fortunately, the longer you stay smoke-free, the more positive changes you’ll experience in your body.
After one year smoke-free, your risk of developing other cancers — including stomach, liver, colon, rectum, and pancreatic cancer — reduces significantly. You are also less likely to develop diabetes as your blood vessels begin to work better.
In fact, quitting smoking can add 20 years to your life. Quitting younger can reduce health risks even further. If you quit before the age of 40, your risk of dying from smoking-related diseases is reduced by 90%.
When you’ve gone five years smoke-free, your stroke risk is the same as the risk for a non-smoker.
At 10 years, your lung cancer risk is half of what it was when you were smoking.
At the 15-year mark, your heart disease risk is the same as that of non-smokers.
A Final Word
12 months after quitting smoking, your body is already reaping the rewards of a cigarette-free lifestyle.
At this point, your risk of coronary heart disease is already half of what it was when you smoked. Your lung function and stress levels are also significantly improved.
You have worked your way through the hardest period of quitting. From here, you can look forward to further health improvements and a reduced risk of disease.
For advice on your quitting journey, you can book a 100% free, bulk-billed telehealth consultation with a trained GP.