Healthy Minute: The Great American Smokeout
I challenge you to quit smoking for one day. It may seem impossible because quitting is a long and hard process but I believe you can do it. By quitting – even for 1 day – you will be taking an important step toward a healthier life and reducing your cancer risk. You won’t be alone either, every year, on the third Thursday of November, smokers across the nation take part in the American Cancer Society Great American Smokeout. You can use the date to make a plan to quit, or you may plan in advance and quit smoking that day. The Great American Smokeout event challenges you to stop using tobacco and helps you learn about the many tools you can use to quit and to stay smoke-free.
By quitting for a day, your body will start to see the benefits of being smoke-free. Even within minutes of smoking your last cigarette, your body begins to recover:
- 20 minutes after quitting your heart rate and blood pressure drop.
- 12 hours after quitting the carbon monoxide level in your blood drops to normal.
- 2 weeks to 3 months after quitting your circulation improves and your lung function increases.
- 1 to 9 months after quitting coughing and shortness of breath decrease.
- 1 year after quitting the excess risk of coronary heart disease is half that of someone who still smokes. Your heart attack risk drops dramatically.
- 5 years after quitting the risk of cancer decreases by 50 percent and the risk of stroke decreases to that of a non-smoker.
- 10 years after quitting your risk of dying from lung cancer is about half that of a person who is still smoking. Your risk of cancer of the larynx (voice box) and pancreas decreases.
- 15 years after quitting Your risk of coronary heart disease is that of a non-smoker’s.
These are just a few of the benefits of quitting smoking for good. Quitting smoking lowers your risk of diabetes, lets blood vessels work better, and helps your heart and lungs. Quitting while you're younger will reduce your health risks more, but quitting at any age can give back years of life that would be lost by continuing to smoke.
Without a doubt, it's hard to quit tobacco but it is possible to overcome. If you are a part of the 70 percent of people who want to quit, research shows that you are most successful in kicking the habit when you have support, such as:
- Telephone smoking-cessation hotlines
- Stop-smoking groups
- Online quit groups
- Nicotine replacement products
- Prescription medicine to lessen cravings
- Guide books
- Encouragement and support from friends and family members
Using two or more of these measures to quit smoking works better than using any one of them alone. For example, some people use a prescription medication along with nicotine replacement. Other people may use as many as 3 or 4 of the methods listed above.
However, there are also other ways to quit successfully. The following are quick tips to try if you are trying to quit.
- Spend as much free time as you can in public places where smoking is not allowed.
- Take extra care of yourself. Drink water, eat well, and get enough sleep. This could help you have the energy you might need to handle extra stress.
- Try to avoid alcohol, coffee, or any other drinks you link with smoking. Try a different low- or no-calorie option instead.
- If you miss the feeling of having a cigarette in your hand, hold something else, like a pencil, a paper clip, a coin, or a marble.
- If you miss the feeling of having something in your mouth, try toothpicks, cinnamon sticks, sugarless gum, sugar-free lollipops, or celery.
- Avoid temptation by staying away from activities, people, and places you link with smoking.
- Make a list of the important reasons you’ve decided to quit, and keep this list with you to continually remind yourself.
- Take deep breaths to relax. Picture your lungs filling with fresh, clean air.
- Remember your goal and the fact that the urge to smoke will lessen over time.
- Remember that quitting is a learning process. Be patient with yourself.
- Exercise in short bursts. Try alternately tensing and relaxing muscles, push-ups, lunges, walking up the stairs, touching your toes or going for a walk.
- Call a friend or family member, when you need support.
- Eat 4 to 6 small meals during the day instead of 1 or 2 large ones. This keeps your blood sugar levels steady, your energy balanced, and helps prevent the urge to smoke. Avoid sugary or spicy foods that could trigger a desire to smoke.
- Reward yourself for achieving your goals.
- Know that anger, frustration, anxiety, irritability, and even depression are normal after quitting and will get better as you learn ways to cope that don’t involve tobacco and the effects of nicotine subside over time.
Do something good for yourself and participate in the Great American Smokeout this November.
When you are ready to quit, the American Cancer Society can help. Call 1-800-227-2345 or visit www.cancer.org/ for more information on quitting tobacco and to find telephone coaching or other support in your area.
Submitted by: Halle Pardun, Burnett Medical Center Marketing Director
“Healthy Minute” is brought to you by healthyburnett.org