The number of people who smoke in the United States of America has vastly declined in recent years. In 1965, approximately 40% of adults smoked cigarettes. Today that number has dropped to nearly 17%. And while this is good news, there is a misconception that just smoking a little or occasionally is okay. Any amount of smoking is bad for your body. Despite the decrease in the number of individuals who smoke, 1 in every 5 person dies as a result of smoking each year. “Smoking is a major [modifiable] risk factor for heart disease” (NIH. n.d.).
Smoking causes damage to your blood cells, blood vessels and affects the heart’s ability to work adequately. The chemicals in cigarette smoke actually build up a layer of plaque in your body’s arteries which decrease the area inside of your blood vessels to transport oxygenated blood to your body and vital organs. When this happens an individual can experience cardiac pain, shortness of breath (due to heart failure), erratic heart rhythm, heart attack, and death.
So here are a few things an individual can do: If you smoke, stop now. If you do not smoke, do not start to smoke. Most public venues are smoke-free now but do your best to avoid places where you may be exposed to secondhand smoke. Some folks believe that “the damage is already done so why bother quitting now.” This is not true. Quitting at any time is best for your overall health and has been shown to actually help reverse cardiac and vessel damage.
If you smoke, here are some tips to help you.
Get ready to quit (think about all the good reasons why you should quit and how good you will feel)
Get support (quitting smoking is hard to do. Enlist the support of friends and loved ones to encourage you to keep smoke-free)
Get medications or nicotine replacement to help you quit
Learn new behaviors (once you quit smoking, you will realize what a huge part of your life it was. Fill that extra time with other healthy behaviors like exercise, bike riding, visiting friends/family, etc.)
You will go thru withdrawal. There is an emotional as well as a physical connection to smoking.
You may relapse. That’s okay. Allow you to forgive yourself and start the process again.
This article was written by Michael Mitchell-Beam, FNP, ARNP. If you are interested in becoming a patient of Michael’s he works in Charlestown, Claremont, and Newport clinics, all you need to do is call 603-863-7777.