Quitting smoking is by no means easy, but its many benefits make it worthwhile. By quitting smoking, you can reduce your risk of various cancers, asthma, emphysema, diabetes, stroke and heart disease.
According to Gopinath Upamaka, MD, FACC, cardiologist with ProMedica Physicians, smoking contains chemicals including carbon monoxide. “Carbon monoxide competes with oxygen,” explains Dr. Upamaka. “When your blood is circulating through the lungs it has the choice to pick up oxygen or carbon monoxide, and it will preferably pick up carbon monoxide. Immediately, you get less oxygen.”
This lack of oxygen can host a variety of challenges for your body, which relies on the chemical to function properly.
If you’re thinking of quitting, here are five keys to make the transition easier.
1. Get ready.
This may not be your first attempt to quit. If it isn’t, think about your past attempts. Consider what worked and what didn’t and be open to new ideas. Set a date that’s 2-4 weeks into the future to give you time to plan and prepare. Remember that both planning and medications take time to be effective.
2. Get support and encouragement.
Talk to your doctor or other healthcare provider and ask for advice. Consider counseling, which doubles your chances of quitting for good and surround yourself with family, friends and coworkers who will support you. Self-help materials in libraries, bookstores and on the Internet can also be helpful.
3. Learn new skills and behaviors.
In addition to being an addiction, smoking is also part of your daily routine, and even habit alone can be difficult to break. In your first few weeks of quitting, change your routine. Form healthier habits and more effective ways to handle stress, anger, boredom and loneliness. Plan something enjoyable every day and drink plenty of water.
4. Consider using medication.
Talk to your healthcare provider about which medications might work for you. There are over-the-counter nicotine replacement medications as well as prescription medications. Using group or individual behavior modification counseling along with medication increases your chances of being successful.
5. Be prepared for difficult situations.
Certain situations can make it difficult for you to avoid smoking, especially if you have just recently quit. Be careful around other tobacco users and avoid alcohol until you are more comfortable as a nonsmoker. Learn to improve your mood in other ways, such as exercise, relaxation, visiting with family or friends or doing other activities you enjoy.
Quitting tobacco use is the most important step you can take to improve your health. There is no better time to quit than right now.