Dr. MJ Bazos MD,
Heart Disease and
Why do I need to
Cigarettes are the leading cause of preventable
death in this country. Tobacco is toxic to your body. The nicotine in cigarettes
makes your body release adrenaline. Adrenaline causes your blood vessels to
constrict and your heart to beat faster, which raises your blood pressure. This
can lead to heart attacks and strokes. The tars and other toxic substances in
tobacco can cause cancer of the lungs and other organs. Tars also damage the
lungs, leading to emphysema (a serious breathing disorder). Cigarette smoke
contains carbon monoxide (which interferes with your lungs' ability to get
oxygen into the blood), and other chemicals, such as DDT, arsenic and
formaldehyde. All of these chemicals are bad for your lungs and body. That's why
stopping smoking is so important.
Why is it so hard
to stop smoking?
It seems hard to stop smoking because smoking
causes changes in your body and in the way you act. The changes in your body are
caused by addiction to nicotine. The changes in the way you act have formed over
time as you have bought cigarettes, lit them and smoked them. These changes have
become your smoking habit.
When you have a smoking habit, many things seem
to go along with having a cigarette. These might include having a cup of coffee,
being stressed or worried, talking on the phone, driving, taking a break at
work, having a drink, socializing with friends or wanting something to do with
How can I stop
You'll have the best chance of stopping if you
do these 4 things:
- Use nicotine replacement.
- Get support and encouragement.
- Learn how to handle stress and the urge to smoke.
- Use bupropion (brand name: Zyban) if recommended
by your doctor.
How do I get
ready to stop smoking?
Set a stop date 2 to 4 weeks from now. Keep a
diary of when and why you smoke to help you better understand your smoking
habit. Using the diary, you and your family doctor can develop a plan to help
you deal with the things that make you want to light a cigarette.
What will happen
when I stop smoking?
How you feel when you stop depends on how much
you smoked, how addicted your body is to nicotine and how well you get ready to
stop. You may crave a cigarette, and you may be hungrier than usual. You may
feel edgy and have trouble concentrating. You also may cough more at first and
you may have headaches. These things happen because your body is used to
nicotine. The symptoms are strongest during the first few days after quitting,
but most go away in a few weeks.
What is nicotine
Nicotine replacement products are ways to take
in nicotine without smoking. These products come in several forms: gum, patch,
inhaler and nasal spray. (The nicotine gum and the nicotine patch can be bought
without a prescription from your doctor.) Nicotine replacement works by
lessening your craving for nicotine and reducing the withdrawal symptoms. It
allows you to focus on the changes you need to make in your habits and
environment. Once you're more comfortable being a nonsmoker, dealing with your
nicotine addiction is easier.
People with heart disease, however, may need to
stop taking in nicotine altogether. Your family doctor will help you decide if
the benefits of using nicotine replacement outweigh the risks. If you have heart
disease, do not buy nicotine replacement products unless your doctor tells you
to do so. Then follow his or her directions carefully.
What is bupropion
Bupropion is a prescription medicine that can
help people increase their chance of success when they quit smoking. It can be
used by itself or in combination with nicotine replacement. Ask your doctor
about whether it might help you quit.
How do I get
support and encouragement?
Tell your family and friends what kind of help
you need. Some people like support from friends and family, while others don't
want people to comment. Your family doctor can also recommend stop-smoking
programs. These programs are often held at a local hospital or health
Support and encouragement don't have to come
from just your family and friends, though. Give yourself personal rewards for
stopping smoking. Buy yourself something you've always wanted or treat yourself
to an afternoon movie.
What about stress
and my urges to smoke?
The first few days after stopping will be the
hardest. Look back at your smoking diary and see what triggered you to smoke.
Then think of other things to do instead of lighting up at these times, such as
walking or simply breathing deeply and slowly. Think of changes in your routine
that will help you not smoke, such as drinking hot tea in the morning instead of
coffee (if you used to smoke while you had a cup of coffee).
Will I gain
weight when I stop smoking?
Most people gain a few pounds (usually less than
10) after they stop smoking. It's important to know that any weight gain is a
minor health risk compared to the risks of continuing to smoke. To limit your
weight gain, try not to replace smoking with overeating. Find other ways to keep
your hands busy instead of picking up food. Make sure you have healthy, low-fat
snacks on hand in case you do reach for food. And start exercising or exercise
more. Exercise helps burn calories and has the added benefit of keeping you busy
so you can't smoke. Your doctor will help you find out how much exercise is
right for you.