Tobacco is the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the United States, killing 540,000 people each year. The majority of smokers (nearly 70%) say they want to quit, and recent data shows that more and more people are successfully quitting.
Quitting smoking is a challenging but immensely rewarding endeavor. If you’re determined to break free from the grip of tobacco, here’s a guide to help you on your journey to quit smoking.
Set a Quit Date
Start by choosing a specific date to quit smoking. This will give you a clear goal to work towards and mentally prepare you for the change.
Pay attention to situations, people, or emotions that trigger your smoking habit. Understanding your triggers will help you develop strategies to avoid or cope with them.
Share your decision to quit with friends and family who can offer encouragement and support. You can also consider joining a support group or talking to a healthcare professional for guidance.
Practice Stress Reduction
Smoking is often used as a coping mechanism for stress. Explore stress reduction techniques like meditation, yoga, or deep breathing exercises to manage stress without cigarettes.
Regular physical activity can help distract you from cravings and improve your overall well-being. Aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week.
Replace Smoking with Healthy Habits
Replace smoking with healthier habits like chewing sugar-free gum, snacking on fruits and vegetables, or sipping on herbal tea.
Avoid Smoking Triggers
Steer clear of situations or places where you used to smoke, and avoid spending time with friends who smoke until you’re more confident in your ability to resist.
Remember that quitting smoking is a process, and it’s normal to have setbacks. If you slip up, don’t be too hard on yourself. Learn from the experience and use it as motivation to continue your smoke-free journey.
The smoke from cigarettes contains thousands of chemicals. Some of these can damage your blood vessels and your heart. Smoking doubles your risk of heart attacks and strokes, and recent research shows that smoking just one cigarette a day raises your risk.
Does smoking cause high cholesterol?
- Smoking makes your LDL cholesterol (the bad kind) ‘stickier’–so it clings to your artery walls and clogs them up.
- Smoking lowers your levels of HDL cholesterol (the good kind), which normally takes cholesterol away from the artery walls.
- Smoking damages the walls of your arteries, and cholesterol collects in the damaged areas.
These changes mean your arteries can get clogged up faster. Smoking also raises your heart rate, makes your blood vessels contract, and makes your blood thicker and less able to carry oxygen. The blood can’t flow around your body easily, your heart has to work harder and blood clots can form, leading to heart attacks and strokes.
Health Effects of Quitting Smoking
- Quitting smoking before age 40 reduces the risk of death associated with continued smoking by 90 percent. Quitting before age 30 avoids more than 97 percent of the risk of death associated with continued smoking.
- Among smokers who quit at age 65, men gained 1.4 to 2 years of life and women gained 2.7 to 3.4 years. Quitting smoking at age 65 or older reduces a person’s risk of dying of a smoking-related disease by nearly 50 percent.
- Quitting smoking reduces the risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and decreases the risk of lung cancer and other cancers.
- Smoking increases a patient’s chance of complications with surgery. Patients who quit smoking just before surgery see better and faster healing. Even brief periods of abstinence from smoking may improve surgical outcomes.
- A smoker’s body has a harder time healing wounds. Smoking also weakens the immune system. Stopping smoking immediately improves the body’s ability to heal itself.
Nearly 70% of smokers say they want to quit.
How Will Quitting Help?
- Within hours, your heart rate will return to normal and the chemicals will start to leave your blood.
- Within days, your breathing will open up and your sense of taste and smell will improve.
- Within weeks, your blood will become less sticky and the risk of heart attacks will start to fall.
- Within months, the blood flow around your body will improve, you’ll feel more energetic and exercise will be easier.
- Within a year, coughing and wheezing will improve as your lungs can take in more air.
- After one year, your risk of heart disease and heart attacks will be halved. After 15 years, it will be similar to someone who has never smoked.
There are many great reasons to quit smoking. Your health, wallet, appearance, and family and friends will thank you. But quitting isn’t easy, so think about your reasons for quitting—and remember them when you’re having a rough day.