Cardiac Rehabilitation and Quitting Smoking
Smoking increases the risk of coronary heart disease as well as many other chronic disorders. If you already have heart disease, you may think, "What good will it do me to quit smoking now?" The answer is, it can do quite a bit of good. Heart disease can be prevented and controlled by following your treatment plan, which includes quitting smoking.
Learn more about smoking and heart disease.
Download our patient information sheet: How Can I Quit Smoking?: English (PDF)| Spanish (PDF)
Getting Ready to Quit Smoking
Congratulations! Quitting smoking is one of the best things you can do to improve your overall health and add years to your life. People who quit smoking generally live longer than people who continue to smoke. You’re more likely to quit smoking for good if you prepare for two things:
1) your last cigarette and 2) the cravings, urges and feelings that come with quitting.
Look at quitting as this five-step process:
Step 1: Set a Quit Day
Choose a date within the next 7 days when you’ll quit smoking. Use the time until your Quit Day to prepare and to gradually cut down on the number of cigarettes you smoke.
Step 2: Choose a Method for Quitting
There are three ways to quit smoking. Choose the method or combination you think will work best for you.
- "Cold turkey": Just stop smoking all at once on your Quit Day. This method doesn't prolong the quitting process.
- Reduce the number of cigarettes you smoke each day until you stop smoking completely. For example, if you smoke 20 cigarettes each day now, cut down to 10 per day for two or three days. Then cut down to five cigarettes for two or three days. On your Quit Day, stop smoking completely.
- Smoke only part of each cigarette. It helps to count how many puffs you take from each cigarette and reduce the number every two or three days. On your Quit Day, stop smoking completely.
Step 3: Decide If You Need Medicines To Help You Quit
Sometimes medicines can help make your first few weeks easier. A nicotine replacement medicine (gum, spray, patch or inhaler) may help you stop smoking.
There are also non-nicotine replacement medicines, varenicline or bupropion, that can help curb your withdrawal symptoms.
- While taking these drugs, if you experience any serious and unusual changes in mood or behavior or feel like hurting yourself or someone else, you should stop taking the medicine and call your health care professional right away.
- Friends or family members who notice these changes in behavior in someone who is taking varenicline or bupropion for smoking cessation should tell the person their concerns and recommend that he or she stop taking the drug and call a health care professional right away.
Medicines are most helpful when they’re used correctly and combined with a behavior-modification program like this one. Call your doctor's office to discuss which medicine is best for you, and to get instructions about how to use it.
Step 4: Plan for Your Quit Day
Use this checklist on the day before your Quit Day. If you can check off all three items, you're well prepared.
____ I have healthy foods to eat when I quit smoking, such as:
- Fresh fruits
- Fresh vegetables
- Sugar-free hard candies
- Sugarless chewing gum
- Other foods I like: _______________________________
____ Each day I don’t smoke, I plan to mark my success with one of these activities:
- Watch a movie
- Visit my friends
- Take a walk
- Do a hobby
- Do other activities I enjoy: __________________________
____ I got rid of every cigarette, match, lighter, ashtray and butt from my house and car.
Step 5: Stop Smoking on Your Quit Day
Congratulate yourself for taking a huge step toward better health!
As soon as you quit, your blood circulation increases, your blood pressure and heart rate quickly improve and the carbon monoxide and oxygen levels in your blood soon return to normal.
Within a few days of quitting, your breathing becomes easier and your senses of smell and taste improve.
Your urges to smoke should decrease daily after you quit smoking.
Get a calendar and every day mark the number of days since you've had a cigarette. As the days pass, you'll see how much time you have invested in quitting — one more reason to stay quit.
Get more personalized help if you need it. Quitting smoking is never easy. If you have trouble, ask your doctor, nurse or rehab center staff about more intensive programs to help you. Contact or visit the Web sites of the American Cancer Society or American Lung Association to get information about group programs.
The American Heart Association provides a wealth of information about quitting smoking, including a more detailed list of benefits and tools to help you kick the habit.