The American Cancer Society's Great American Smokeout is this Thursday, November 16. With that date approaching, many people will begin to think more about either quitting smoking or encouraging a loved one or friend to quit the habit. Quitting tobacco can be very difficult to accomplish, but the rewards to your health begin very quickly.
Nicotine is a very addictive drug. For some it may be as addictive as heroin or cocaine. Most people make two to three attempts or more before finally being successful at quitting. There are many good reasons to quit including:
- You will live longer and better.
- Quitting lowers your chance of heart attack, stroke and cancer.
- If you are pregnant, it will improve your chance of having a healthy baby.
- Those you live with, especially your children, will be healthier.
- You will have extra money to spend on things other than cigarettes.
The human body is very resilient and will actually begin to repair itself within 20 minutes of your last cigarette. After 20 minutes, your blood pressure and pulse will decrease. After eight hours, the carbon monoxide level in your blood will return to normal and the oxygen level in the blood will increase toward a more normal level. Twenty-four hours without a cigarette can decrease your risk of a heart attack, and after 48 hours, damaged nerve endings will begin to regenerate and your ability to taste and smell will improve.
After two to three months of quitting smoking, your circulation improves and the function of your lungs increases. You should begin to note that walking is becoming easier at this point due to your increased circulation and lung function. Between one and nine months, you should notice a decrease in coughing, sinus congestion, fatigue and shortness of breath. After one-year tobacco free, your risk of coronary heart disease can decrease to half that of someone still smoking.
Studies have shown that the use of five key steps can help you quit smoking for good. Those steps are:
- Get Ready. Set a date and change your environment.
- Get support.
- Learn new skills and behaviors. Change your routine and learn new techniques to reduce your stress.
- Get medication and use it correctly. Ask your health care provider for advice and carefully read the information on the package.
- Be prepared for relapse and difficult situations. Avoid alcohol and other smokers. Eat healthier and start a weight loss program to prepare for any eventual weight gain.
An important part of stopping smoking is to have a support system. Statistically, only about 7 percent of those who quit without support are still smoke free after one year. There are many resources available to help you quit smoking. Pennsylvania offers a free telephone Quitline. It can be reached by calling 1-877-724-1090. The Quitline is a partnership between the Pennsylvania Department of Health and The American Cancer Society. It is based on state-of-the-art techniques in smoking cessation and provides counseling and structured assistance to individuals who are committed to quitting. The service is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can also find resources online at www.surgeongeneral.gov/tobacco and www.cdc.gov/tobacco/how2quit.htm.
There are many resources out there to help you quit, so if you are committed to making a healthy change in your life, why not make that change today and stop smoking!
Lester Griel is a registered nurse in the intensive care unit at Mount Nittany Medical Center.