Benefits of Smoking Cessation for Your Heart & Tips to Quit Cigarettes
The good news is that in recent years fewer Americans are smoking cigarettes, however many still continue to smoke, and unfortunately the associated health risks are potent.
If you have high blood pressure, raised total cholesterol ≥240 mg/dL, and are a current smoker, your risk of fatal cardiovascular disease is very high.
Given the fact that smoking is the most preventable cause of premature death in the United States, accounting for 440,000 annual deaths, isn't it time to give up smoking, and put your health in first place?
So, how does smoking increase your risk of heart disease? Well, smoking:
- Decreases oxygen to the heart and to other tissues in the body.
- Decreases HDL (good) cholesterol.
- Increases blood pressure and heart rate.
- Increases blood clotting.
- Damages the cells that line the coronary arteries and other blood vessels.
- Increases risk of developing coronary artery disease and heart attack.
- Increases risk of developing peripheral artery disease and stroke.
- Increases risk of developing lung cancer, throat cancer, chronic asthma, bronchitis, and emphysema.
Many people have the attitude that giving up following many years of smoking would be pointless, however this couldn't be further from the truth. Without a doubt, the sooner you give up smoking the better.
If you give up smoking following:
- 20 minutes - your blood pressure and pulse return to normal.
- 8 hours - nicotine, carbon monoxide and oxygen levels in your blood begin to return to normal.
- 24 hours - the chance of heart attack begins to decreases.
- 2 days - your lungs start to clear and your sense of taste and smell begin to return
- 3 days - breathing is easier and your energy levels increase.
- 2-12 weeks - circulation improves and exercise gets easier.
- 3-9 months - breathing problems, coughing, shortness of breath and wheezing improve.
- 5 years - risk of having a heart attack falls to about half that of a smoker.
- 10 years - risk of lung cancer falls to about half that of a smoker. You have the same risk of a heart attack as someone who has never smoked.
Granted quitting isn't easy, however millions of people have managed to conquer their addition. Are you really serious about giving up smoking right now? If you are, here are a few tips:
- Pick a date to stop smoking and stick to it.
- Write down your reasons for quitting - live longer, feel and look better etc - it's a good idea to remind yourself of these daily.
- What are your smoking triggers? Maybe it's mealtimes, or even the people you associate with. How will you handle these situations?
- What activities can you do instead of smoking? You may need to find something to do with your hands - Rubik cube, crosswords etc - anything to take your mind of the cravings.
- Your doctor can also tell you about nicotine gum or patches, or perhaps you may consider joining a support group.
What about weight gain?
It's true that some people begin to gain weight when the give up smoking. This may be due to their increased ability to smell and taste food, or because they substitute smoking with food. The best way to prevent weight gain is to make some diet and lifestyle changes when you stop smoking.
- Try not to substitute food or sugar-based products for cigarettes.
- Snack on healthy foods, such as fruit, and raw veg, or chew gum.
- Drink plenty of low calorie fluids.
- Try to include exercise in your daily routine. This will help you to relax, burn calories, and take your mind off cravings.
For further information check out Anti-Smoking.org.
Melanie Thomassian is a dietician, and the author of Dietriffic.com, an online resource for credible dietary advice, exercise tips, and much more!