If you’re a smoker, chances are you know it’s bad for your health. But the thought of quitting can make you talk yourself right out of it. You’re not alone. But for many people just like you, they’ve decided the benefits are well worth it. Saying goodbye to tobacco will not only improve your health, it will enhance your quality of life — in more ways than one. No matter how long you’ve been smoking, it’s never too late to quit.
Smoking and your health
Did you know smoking is the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the United States? Tobacco contains both carbon monoxide and tar that can damage your lungs and starve your body of oxygen. The bright side is, the moment you quit, your body will begin to repair itself. Here are a few ways smoking can affect your health:
- Lung disease:
- One of the most talked about effects, smoking damages the airways in the lungs, preventing oxygen from being distributed throughout the body.
- Cardiovascular disease:
- Smoking can cause plaque to build up in the blood and stick to your arteries, causing them to contract and reduce blood flow. Nicotine and carbon monoxide can also cause your heart to work too hard.
- Bone health:
- Since smoking restricts the flow of oxygen to the bones, it reduces bone density, making them weaker and less likely to heal after a fracture.
- Lower immune system:
- Smoking lowers the immune system and causes inflammation, which can lead to rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis or type 2 diabetes.
- Oral health:
- Besides causing bad breath, dry mouth and a reduced sense of taste and smell, smoking can lead to gum disease.
Smoking and your quality of life
Improving your health isn’t the only reason to quit smoking. There are many other reasons to quit:
- You’ll save money.
- One pack of cigarettes can cost as much as $10 or more. But even if you only pay $5 per pack, smoking a pack a day could cost $1,825 per year!
- Not smoking is more convenient.
- No longer will you have to make it through a long movie or stand out in the cold and rain to enjoy a cigarette.
- You’ll improve your appearance.
- Smoking can age you by staining your teeth and giving you wrinkles.
- You’ll sleep better.
- Smoking can affect your breathing and make you snore. (Your spouse will sleep better too!)
- You’ll create a safer environment for the ones you love.
- Even secondhand smoke is dangerous. Children of smokers can develop more chest colds and ear infections.
Tips to quit
Tobacco cravings can be brutal. But the good news is that they will only last for a few minutes. As soon as you feel a craving coming on, divert your attention and focus on something else entirely. Here are a few ways you can start resisting that urge to smoke:
- Recognize your triggers.
- Do you smoke when you’re on the phone? After a meal? When you’re stressed? Make a plan to distract yourself during those times.
- Satisfy your oral fixation.
- Chew a piece of gum or snack on some fruit, veggies or other healthy snack.
- Substitute another activity.
- Feeling fidgety? Play a game of cards or do a crossword puzzle — anything to keep your hands busy.
- Take a walk, run a flight of stairs or clean the house. Getting your heart rate going can ease your craving.
- Practice mindful relaxation.
- If stress causes you to smoke, try managing it with yoga, meditation or calming music.
You don’t have to go it alone. Call a friend or go online for support. And most importantly, be patient with yourself. The fact that you’re making the effort is something to be proud of.