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House Calls: Quitting is a reachable goal

If your New Year’s resolution was to quit smoking, you’re in good company. Twice as many smokers say they were going to quit this year as compared with last year.

So how have you done?

It’s a popular resolution along with weight lose that many people try to accomplish every year. There are more former smokers than current smokers.

Quitting is a reachable goal. Nearly 70 percent of smokers want to quit. Sixty-seven percent of smokers say they want to quit due to cost of cigarettes, whereas 53 percent cited concerns over health risks.

Tobacco smoke has nearly 7,000 chemicals in it. Seventy of these chemicals are known to cause cancer. Smoking causes immediate damage to your body on the first inhalation you take. Tobacco is the leading cause of preventable deaths in the US. It causes nearly a half million deaths every year. It kills more people than HIV, murder, suicide, car crashes, alcohol abuse, and drug abuse combined.

For every person who dies of tobacco, another 20 have serious illnesses from it. People who quit smoking can reduce their risk of disease and early death. The younger you are when you quit the better your health will be. If you quit before the age of 35 you have the same rate of death as people that have never smoked.

Smokers have a higher risk of developing chronic disorders, including heart disease and COPD. Smoking increases your risk factors for developing these diseases by decreasing your tolerance to physical activities and increasing the tendency for your blood to clot. Smoking decreases HDL (good) cholesterol. Smoking increases your risk of peripheral artery disease and aneurysms. Smoking is also a major risk factor for strokes. COPD or chronic bronchitis is caused by smoking. COPD causes great difficulty breathing. When you quit smoking, both the coughing and shortness of breath should improve. Quitting smoking slows the progression of the illness and can reverse some of the damage if caught early enough. When you quit smoking you are also protecting family members and friends from second-hand smoke.

Quitting smoking can be extremely difficult. Many people try numerous times to quit. That’s because nicotine found in cigarettes is very addictive. If one attempt is unsuccessful, don’t give up. Less than 5 percent of smokers quit cold turkey.

The first step is to get rid of all tobacco and related products from your house, car and work. Don’t let people smoke around you. Try a different routine. If you smoke every time you eat breakfast, eat somewhere different. If you smoke every time you are stressed, do something to reduce that feeling. Try to distract yourself when you feel the urge to smoke. Talk to someone, go for a walk, or read a book to get your mind off smoking.

Substitute smoking for low fat foods such as fruits, vegetables, hard candies, or chewing gum. Reward yourself on days you don’t smoke by watching a movie, doing a hobby, visiting with friends, or taking a walk.

Talk to your doctor to see what method is best for you to quit smoking. Over the counter nicotine products can help. These products contain nicotine to help reduce the cravings and withdrawals of quitting smoking. Some of these products include nicotine patches, lozenges and nicotine gum. You can also get a prescription for nicotine inhalers which may help.

Prescription medications such as Chantix and Wellbutrin also reduce the cravings of nicotine and are very successful. Neither of these drugs contains nicotine. They work in different ways to reduce the urge to smoke. These products are FDA approved and are proven effective in helping smokers quit.

Counseling can also be important, especially if used in combination with any of the above mentioned products. Two good resources to help quit are www.smokefree.gov and 1-800-quit-now.

Regardless of the way you decide to quit smoking, what’s important is that you quit. The first step is to seek medical help. Then you must commit to quitting. Be passionate about quitting. Stay focused on your commitment. Take the appropriate medications to assist you in quitting. Expect relapse, it may take numerous times to quit. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you’re not successful, just try something different. Be patient — success doesn’t happen overnight. Expect slow and steady progress. It takes time and effort to quit smoking.

Get a calendar, mark your quit day, and go for it. Good luck.

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