While everyone associates smoking with lung cancer, did you know that smoking causes about 30 percent of all heart disease and strokes? Not to mention, continuing to smoke throughout your life shaves 13-14 years off of it.
As a woman, you’ve already got the No. 1 killer knocking at your door. So whether you light up on a regular basis or just socially, think about extinguishing that cigarette before it becomes the key to unlocking a diagnosis of heart disease.
How smoking affects your health
According to Dr. Clyde Yancy, Professor of Medicine at UT Southwestern Medical Center, smoking damages every tissue and organ in your body. Here’s how:
- Nicotine makes your heart rate and blood pressure skyrocket.
- Carbon monoxide and tobacco rob your heart, brain and arteries of oxygen.
- Smoking damages your blood vessels and makes your blood sticky, which is a recipe for blood clots.
- Smoking lowers your tolerance for physical activity and decreases HDL (good) cholesterol.
- If you take oral contraceptives, smoking increases your blood pressure and risk for stroke and heart attack.
- Smoking can kill you even if you don’t smoke. Second hand smoke increases the risk for heart disease by 25-30 percent and results in cardiac related death for about 38,000 people each year.
Yes, you can quit smoking
Quitting isn’t easy. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Here’s a little motivation:
- If you quit after a heart attack, your chances of a heart attack drop by 50 percent.
- Your risk for a heart attack continues to drop each year that you remain a non-smoker.
- Automatic weight gain is a myth. The reason women gain weight after quitting is because they substitute extra food for those missing cigarettes.
- It may feel like a lifetime, but nicotine cravings last only a minute, or even less.
- Just after one month of quitting: You won’t be short of breath during normal physical activities, your sense of taste and smell will return to normal and the stains on your teeth and fingernails will start to fade.
Look at it as 5-step process
1. Choose a date to quit and stick with it. Tell people about your plan, as well. There is no reason to go through this alone, and they can help keep you accountable.
2. Plan your attack. Whether you go cold turkey, slowly reduce the number of cigarettes you smoke each day or devise a method of your own, pick something that is realistic. You know your weaknesses, so unless it’s a last resort, don’t choose a method you know is doomed to fail.
3. Consider getting an extra boost. Nicotine patches, gum and prescription medications that have helped many smokers quit. You can also get counseling, try acupuncture or join a support group. Whatever it takes to keep you smoke free, do it.
4. Have a plan B for cravings. Surround yourself with people who don’t smoke. Ask for support and find a buddy to call when you feel weak. If you’re around people who do smoke, ask them to be supportive and not tempt you by offering you cigarettes. You should also be prepared for times when you know you’ll get the urge out of habit. For example, if you smoke when you drink coffee or wine, or after dinner, find a substitute.
5. Pat yourself on the back. Reward yourself for each day you get through without smoking. Treat yourself to a massage or a dinner date with friends. Or figure out how much money you’ve saved and buy yourself something special. You’re improving your health, you deserve it!