Your heart wants you to stop smoking: Seven creative ways
Finding it hard to quit smoking? Try these tactics and start living a healthier, smoke-free life.
- Cigarettes and nicotine can increase blood pressure, narrow blood vessels and harden arteries.
- One year after quitting, your risk for heart disease decreases by 50%.
- You don’t have to go cold turkey: There are lots of creative ways to quit that can work!
[3 MIN READ]
Every year, the American Cancer Society marks The Great American Smokeout® on the third Thursday in November. For some people, this event is just another day on the calendar. But for the 34 million Americans who still smoke cigarettes, it’s an opportunity to quit smoking and commit to a healthy lifestyle.
As the annual Smokeout® approaches, let’s take a look at some creative ways to quit smoking, and how a smoke-free life can benefit your short- and long-term heart health.
How does smoking affect my heart?
Many people understand the effect smoking can have on the lungs and how it increases the risk for cancer, but did you know quitting smoking can also improve your heart health?
When you smoke, you inhale carbon monoxide. This dangerous gas can increase the amount of cholesterol deposited in your arteries, which can cause blockages and raise your risk for heart attack.
Once you quit, your body starts to repair itself from the damage caused by smoking cigarettes. There are both short- and long-term benefits for your heart.
Nicotine, an addictive chemical in cigarettes, can also increase blood pressure, narrow blood vessels and harden arteries — all of these factors increase heart attack risk.
Short-term heart benefits
- Just 20 minutes after quitting, your heart rate and blood pressure return to normal.
- After 12 hours, the amount of carbon monoxide in your blood returns to normal.
- After two weeks, your blood circulation improves.
Long-term heart benefits
- After one to nine months, your breathing gradually becomes easier. This can help improve your ability to exercise, which can lower your risk for heart disease.
- After one year, your risk of heart disease decreases by 50%.
- After 15 years, your risk of heart disease is the same as a non-smoker’s.
Ways to quit smoking
Quitting a smoking habit is not easy, but the benefits are worth the time and effort. If you’ve been striking out with the traditional tactics, try these creative techniques:
1. Start a new workout routine
Exercise can help keep your mind and body occupied when cravings creep up. Try a new workout routine that will get you excited about being active. You can check your local gym, YMCA or community center for group classes, one-on-one training or team sports.
2. Find a new hobby
If sports aren’t your thing, try diving in to a new hobby to take your mind off smoking. Activities that use your hands, such as puzzling, knitting, pottery or drawing, can help you fight the urge to hold a cigarette.
Avoid temptation by spending time in places where you can’t smoke, like movie theaters, museums, libraries, malls or smoke-free restaurants.
3. Spend time where you can’t smoke
Avoid temptation by spending time in places where you can’t smoke, like movie theaters, museums, libraries, malls or smoke-free restaurants. You can also find people who are on similar journeys through applications like Meetup. This is especially important in the early days of quitting.
4. Look for other ways to relieve stress
For many people, cigarettes can help calm anxiety and stress. Instead of reaching for another pack, try finding a new method for calming yourself down. Meditation, yoga, deep breathing exercises and long walks are all great ways to relieve stress.
5. Reward yourself
Let’s face it – this isn’t an easy quest! You can stay motivated by rewarding yourself along the way. Set milestones for yourself, and once you reach them, treat yourself. It could be a movie, a new pair of shoes, or a fun vacation once you’ve finally kicked the habit.
If you’re used to taking a smoke break at the same time every day, try substituting the cigarette with a bottle of water or a small piece of candy.
6. Take a “smoke-free” break
If you’re used to taking a smoke break at the same time every day, try substituting the cigarette with a bottle of water or a small piece of candy. This will allow you to stick to your routine without getting back into a smoking habit.
7. Try smoking cessation resources
You can access a Providence smoking cessation class in Oregon or Southwest Washington, or take advantage of our online resources.
Whichever way you decide to quit smoking, remember to be mindful what triggers your cravings. Experiment with writing down these triggers so you have a clearer since of the causes and are better equipped to cope. It’s also essential to build a support group that can help you along the way — surround yourself with people who don’t smoke and who can help you stick to your goal.
Find a doctor
If you need advice on how to quit smoking and information on how it can help your heart, talk to your doctor. You can find a Providence cardiologist using our provider directory. Or, you can search for a primary care doctor in your area.
How do you stay smoke-free to keep your #heart healthy? Share your quitting tips with us! #GASO #health @psjh
This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.