While the benefits of quitting smoking are just beginning, between two weeks and three months, major physical improvements have begun.
Between Two Weeks and Three Months:
Heart Attack Risk Begins to Drop and Circulation Improves
Nicotine increases the level of adrenaline in a smoker's bloodstream, and this in turn elevates blood pressure by causing blood vessels to constrict and heart rate to increase. Smoking cessation alleviates this stress on the heart and circulatory system.
Lung Function Increases
While improvements will vary greatly from one person to the next, and are dependent on overall lung health, ex-smokers may experience better lung function (defined as forced expiratory volume in one second) and less bronchial sensitivity.
- Researchers also believe that smoking cessation stops the decline in lung function, including pathological and inflammatory changes that occur in the lungs due to tobacco smoke.
The worst of the physical symptoms of nicotine withdrawal begin to let go between two weeks and a month smoke-free. Following that, the focus shifts to learning how to decipher and reprogram the psychological urges to smoke that are associated with just about everything in our daily lives. From getting up in the morning, to eating a meal, to dealing with a difficult event or celebrating a happy one, the activities in our lives trigger psychological cues to smoke.
It is important to note that an urge to smoke originating in your mind can cause a physical reaction in your body, such as a tightening in the stomach or neck. It can be easy to misread these cues and think you are still in the midst of physical withdrawal weeks into cessation.
Pay attention to the thoughts running through your mind when the urge hits. They will help you diagnose the cause and from there you can choose an appropriate response. For instance, if you are feeling stressed, take a breather and go outside for some fresh air. Or, if you're hungry, have a snack. As smokers, we learned to respond to just about everything with a cigarette. As ex-smokers, we must learn to respond in healthier (and more accurate) ways.
Knowledge is Power
Education about what to expect when you stop smoking is a necessary part of a successful quit program. When you know what may be coming as you move through the process of recovery from nicotine addiction, you'll find yourself empowered and able to maneuver the bumps along the way without losing your balance.
Throw yourself into learning everything you can about nicotine addiction, and the process of quitting tobacco. It is a priceless investment in your future.
When junkie thinking whispers that just one cigarette would be ok...
It happens to every ex-smoker, regardless of how passionate we are about quitting tobacco. Junkie thinking is a byproduct of nicotine addiction and is something you must learn to squelch or your quit will be in jeopardy.
Rationalizations for Smoking
Let's take a look at some specific examples of junkie thinking in action...and how to thwart it.
The Icky Threes
The icky threes is a term that comes up over and over again at the support forum here at About.com Smoking Cessation. It refers to particular phases of a person's quit program that can be bumpy and uncomfortable.
For more help, sign up for About.com Smoking Cessation's free quit smoking e-course.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Within 20 Minutes of Quitting. http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/sgr/2004/posters/20mins/. Accessed August 2013.
National Institute on Drug Abuse. Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products.http://www.nida.nih.gov/Infofacts/Tobacco.html. Accessed August 2013.
European Respiratory Journal.The Impact of Smoking Cessation on Respiratory Symptoms, Lung Function, Airway Hyper-responsiveness and Inflammation. http://erj.ersjournals.com/content/23/3/464.long. Accessed August 2013.