Once diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), the first thing your doctor will suggest is for you to quit smoking. While quitting won’t reverse any damage already done, it will prevent further damage. So a wise move is for you to start quitting, and to start quitting today. Here are six tips to help you get started.
1. Learn what’s in a cigarette. Did you ever consider what you are inhaling each time you puff on a cigarette? If you knew, it might gross you out, maybe even make you cringe, and hopefully increase your desire to quit. Surely you knew about the nicotine, but all it does is get you hooked.
Every cigarette also contains over 5,000 chemicals, many of which you would never even think about putting in your body. Here, I’ll name a few: Acetone (paint thinner), ammonia (household cleaner), arsenic (rat poison), butane (lighter fluid), carbon monoxide (car exhaust), cadmium (used in batteries), cyanide (deadly poison), hydrogen cyanide (poison used in gas chambers), lead (a heavy metal),naphthalene (used in mothballs), polonium (cancer causing radioactive element), tar (used to fill potholes), and DDT (banned insecticide).
There are 36 more known cancer-causing agents in every cigarette.
2. Learn what health problems smoking causes. Cigarette smoking has been proven to cause allergies, heart disease, asthma, cancers, emphysema, chronic bronchitis, heart disease, osteoporosis, raynaud’s syndrome, stroke, ulcers, pneumonia, infertility, bad breath, and diminished sense of smell. Some studies have also linked it with dementia and alzheimer’s disease. You’re also at an increased risk of getting colds and flus.
3. Learn the short-term benefits of quitting. Now for the good: As soon as you quit, changes start to occur in your body that set you on a path to improved health.
Within 20 minutes your blood pressure and pulse rate will already begin to return to normal, circulation to your hands and feet improves, and fibers in your bronchial tree begin to move again, removing irritants and bacteria. Within eight hours carbon monoxide and oxygen levels in your blood returns to normal.
Within 24 hours your risk of heart disease already starts to decrease. Within 48 hours your nerve endings begin to regrow. Within 72 hours your breathing becomes easier as your lung capacity begins to increase.
In two weeks your circulation starts to improve, and your lung function may increase by as much as 30 percent.
4. Learn the long-term benefits of quitting. Within 1-9 months your energy will increase, and your breathing greatly improves due to the regeneration of your bronchial tree. Your ability to spit up mucus greatly improves, thus improving your ability to clean out your lungs, thus diminishing your risk of developing pneumonia.
After quitting for 3-5 years, your risk of dying of a heart attack decreases to that of a nonsmoker. In 10 years, your risk of dying of lung cancer decreases to that of a nonsmoker. Your risk of developing other cancers that cigarette smoke has been proven to cause (mouth, throat, esophagus, bladder, kidney, etc.) also greatly diminish after 10 years of nonsmoking.
5. Ask your doctor for help. Surely you can quit on your own, but you don’t have to. There are a ton of nicotine products that your doctor can prescribe so you can be slowly weaned off nicotine, and there are even some over-the-counter products. There are gums, fake cigarettes, lozenges, inhalers, patches, and all sorts of options designed to help you.
There are also medicines such as Zyban and Chantix to help you deal with the withdrawal symptoms and the urge to smoke. Studies also show that a combination of a nicotine substitute and a medicine like Zyban and Chantix have the best success rate.
Every person is different, so what works for you may not work for others. Ideally, you should work with your doctor to find a method to help you quit, and then stick with it.
6. Know other people will support you. Talk to your spouse, your children, and your friends. Talk to others who have already quit. There are also many support groups both online and in your community.
You can call numbers like 1-800-NY-QUITS or 1-800-QUIT-NOW. You can also click here for a variety of other options. There are many people who want to help you quit, and who will do whatever they can to help.
Bottom Line: Quitting smoking is one of those things you should do for yourself because it’s the right thing to do. The best way to quit is to make the decision today, and then set a stop smoking date. When that date comes up, you’ll wake up a nonsmoker, and set yourself on a course to a healthier you.
"Smoking Cessation Educational Kit," University of Pittsburgh, Smoking Cessation: Practical Skills for Healthcare Professionals Training Program, 2001, 2006, ashp.org, https://www.ashp.org/DocLibrary/Policy/Tobacco/Educational-Kit.aspx, accessed on 4/13/14
"Changes your body goes through when you quit smoking," University of Michigan Health Sstem, Tobacco Consultation Service, 2005, http://hr.umich.edu/mhealthy/programs/tobacco/consultation/pdf/changes.pdf, accessed 2/23/14
"Quitting Assistance," newyorksmokefree.com, http://www.nysmokefree.com/default.aspx, accessed 2/14/14
A Registered Respiratory Therapist and asthmatic