Tips on Quitting Smoking for Better Heart Health

By Patricia Stuart

Tips on Quitting Smoking for Better Heart Health

Why is smoking bad? This is what we know:

  • Nicotine makes the heart work faster and blood pressure increase.
  • Carbon monoxide (from the smoke) attaches to oxygen and strains the body by lowering oxygen saturation levels. There’s less oxygen for the body cells that demand it to function properly. NOTE: Carbon monoxide is why people don’t sit a a closed garage with a continuous source of automobile exhaust.
  • When smoked, tobacco produces over 7,000 chemicals, 69 of which are labeled cancer causing. Additionally, these chemicals are associated with damaging the inside lining of your coronary arteries — the foundation for coronary artery disease and blood clots. These chemicals are easily absorbed into the blood stream from the lungs and circulated throughout the body — head to toe.
  • When you smoke, nicotine, carbon monoxide, and all those 7,000 chemicals are inhaled into the lungs, absorbed into the blood, flows through the heart, and exits via the left ventricle. This chemical infused blood goes into the coronary arteries that feed the heart and the aorta leading to the rest of the body.
  • When used in the beginning, nicotine provides a smoker a pleasant feeling. If stressed or troubled, this feeling distracts the user from potential negative feelings of a situation. With time a smoker learns that negative feelings can be overcome by the “feel good” response of smoking. Just like other addictive drugs, a smoker develops a tolerance to nicotine and the nicotine demands more and more smoking to experience the pleasure that was experienced in the beginning. People who wouldn’t dream of taking illicit drugs may not realize that nicotine is thought to be as addictive as heroin or cocaine. The younger you are when you begin to smoke, the more likely you are to become addicted to nicotine.
  • Whereas smoking may be legal, smokers are socially isolated as smoking in many public venues such as sporting venues, restaurants, and more are forbidden. Additionally, some employers readily select non-smokers for hire vs a smoker.
  • Smoking doesn’t just smell bad, it stinks . . . on your clothes . . . in your hair . . . in the car . . . in the house . . . your breath — yuck! A simple kiss is more like a lick of an ashtray. This smell cannot be covered up by colognes or room fresheners.
  • Smoking is expensive — a $5 pack-a-day habit adds up to $1,825.00 a year (more than $35 a week). Additional expenses may include a higher insurance premium and/or associated medical bills.

Smoking is definitely a bad idea. So why do people continue to smoke? To stop smoking one must not only break a well established habit, but for many, also deal with the ugly reality of a true addiction to nicotine. People probably continue to smoke because stopping smoking is hard. In 2012, researchers found it may actually be harder to stop smoking than to quit using cocaine or opiates.

How to stop smoking? Consider the following tips:

  1. Make a plan. No one just walks up to a piece of real estate and starts nailing boards together to make a house — they have a well defined plan. To quit smoking forever a smoker needs a well thought out plan for success. A plan should include:
    • A list of reasons why to quit smoking — why do this? When times get tough a quitting smoker needs to remember why smoking cessation is important.
    • Identify when you crave a cigarette. Are there events that trigger the craving? Develop a list of short, simple strategies that interrupt the chain of events to the trigger? Grabbing a cigarette out of habit? Find a habit you can live with to replace that smoke.
    • Don’t hesitate to reach out for ideas and support: Family, friends, and successful former smokers can help throw “blocks” to defuse potential trigger situations.
    • Healthcare providers can suggest community resources, support groups, and stop smoking treatments to help beat the addiction and reduce withdrawal symptoms.
    • Don’t forget the excellent resources online like the American Lung Association https://www.lung.org/quit-smoking.
    • Consider how diet and activity can play a role in a new sense of wellness and health. A good diet is the foundation of feeling “good”. Healthy snacks can replace unhealthy smoking. Replace “when am I going to smoke again?” with “can I squeeze in a few moments of activity after lunch?”
    • Set a “Quit Date”. The quit date is when you stop smoking. Write it on the calendar so you see it every day. Share this date with support people. A plan leading up to this date may take 21 days or more. Prior to the quit date adopt healthy behaviors while cutting down on cigarettes. Deal with triggers one at a time. Over time the new lifestyle begins to feel comfortable. You will be ready to quit smoking by this day. No more cigarettes!
  1. After the quit date continue the success that made that day happen. Every day count the smoke-free days. Quit date is a mile-marker, not the finish line. Support system may be needed now more than before. There will still be temptations and challenges. Know that being smoke-free is worth it.
  2. If the plan doesn’t lead to the success, what did you learn? Remember the words of Thomas Edison, inventor of the lightbulb: “I didn’t fail. I just found 2,000 ways not to make a lightbulb; I only needed to find one way to make it work.” To quit smoking is hard. Don’t give up!

Quitting smoking is the most important thing a smoker can do to improve the length and quality of life according to the Surgeon General. As soon as you quit smoking your body begins to repair the damage from smoking. Quitting smoking is tough. Learn from what didn’t work.“ The means by which we achieve victory are as important as the victory itself.” (Brandon Sanderson) It may be better to quit sooner rather than later, but quit.

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Orignially published on August 24, 2020, updated on August 24, 2020

Topic: Diabetes Management

About Patricia Stuart