Do you want to quit smoking, but just can’t seem to kick the habit? Learn why smoking is one of the worst things you can do to your health, along with tips on how you can beat the habit for good.
You know that cigarettes are bad for you, but how exactly does smoking affect your health? Here are conditions and diseases which have been proven to be caused by smoking:
- Coronary Heart Disease: CHD, the result of plaque build-up inside of arteries, is the #1 cause of death in both men and women in the US today.
- Cancer: Cancer is the growth of abnormal cells within the body at an uncontrolled rate. Cancers that result from smoking can find their home in the lungs, bladder, esophagus, mouth, throat, blood, bone marrow, and stomach.
- Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease: Smoking cigarettes is the #1 cause of COPD, a condition that restricts airflow in the lungs, and is the 3rd leading cause of death in the US.
- Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm: Most common in men over the age of 60 who have one or more of the common risk factors…and you guessed right – smoking is one of them.
- Bronchitis: A respiratory disease that causes the bronchial tubes in the lungs to become inflamed. This can result in difficulty breathing and coughing spells. Bronchitis can grow increasingly worse the longer someone smokes, and may become permanent.
- Stroke: A stroke is the result of blood failing to reach a part or parts of the brain. This can cause brain cells to die if it lasts for more than a few seconds, and causes permanent damage.
- Emphysema: Emphysema prevents your body from obtaining the full amount of oxygen it requires, making it difficult to catch your breath and may result in a chronic cough or difficulty breathing during exercise or everyday activities.
- Erectile dysfunction: Even if you’re not scared of dying young, you probably want to live a good life while you’re on this side of the dirt. For most guys that means having an active sex life, and that’s going to be hard to do if you can’t get an erection. Several studies have shown that smoking cigarettes is a lead contributor to impotence.
Smoking can lead to all of those problems and more, but what is it exactly in cigarettes that cause this damage?
Each of the listed ingredients can cause permanent harm to someone with regular exposure, such as smoking cigarettes. With all of these harmful ingredients and negative ramifications that go with smoking quitting would seem like the obvious choice; smoking is addictive, however, and it is seldom as easy as just deciding to quit.
The addictive nature of cigarettes can be laid primarily at the feet of a single ingredient, nicotine. Cigarettes contain between 8 and 20 milligrams of nicotine depending on which brand you buy; the differing levels of nicotine are not important, however, as only about 1 milligram is absorbed into your body when you smoke.
The first thing nicotine does to your body is force it to release adrenaline rapidly, as well as extra glucose which will make you feel more ‘alive’ and have more energy. This then leads to an increase in receptor activity within the brain (receptors deliver signals to the muscles from the brain). Your body naturally controls receptor activity on its own but the activity induced by nicotine cannot be regulated by the body.
This burst of activity is followed by the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine into your brain’s reward pathways. This causes you to feel happy, calm, and at peace. These feelings are what causes the addiction, as your body craves this feeling and compels you to smoke to achieve those feelings.
While your body craves these feelings all the time, the effects of nicotine typically last only a few hours. This means that most people will end up smoking several times throughout the day to keep up with the body’s demands.
This becomes even more of a problem as time goes by, as your body naturally develops a tolerance to nicotine and requires more of it to achieve the same feelings. This causes most people to smoke more cigarettes, more often, thus increasing their risk for all of the conditions associated with smoking.
Your body will suffer from withdrawal when you deprive it of the nicotine it has grown accustomed to. When you first quit you may be faced with:
- Intense cravings for cigarettes
- Increased blood pressure and heart rate
- Temporary changes in your personality
- Weight gain
All of these symptoms can be eased by finding the right method of quitting for you, and will decrease in severity the longer you go without smoking. The things to remember when you are struggling with your resolution are the many benefits of quitting. The benefits of quitting only increase the longer you stay away from cigarettes, and within…
- 20 Minutes: Your blood pressure will return to normal rates
- 8 Hours: The nicotine in your bloodstream will have fallen by 93.25%
- 24 Hours: Your anxiety levels will have hit their highest point, and it will only decrease from here.
- 48 Hours: Your nerve endings will start to regrow and your sense of taste and smell will start returning to normal.
- 72 Hours: Your body will test nicotine-free, and your withdrawal symptoms will be at their highest. The symptoms will only decrease from here.
- 2 Weeks: Your addiction should now be under your control, and your cravings will be drastically reduced in severity.
- 1 Year: Your risk of coronary heart disease, heart attack, and stroke will have dropped to lower than half of what it was increased by as a smoker.
How to Quit Smoking
Quitting is never simple or easy, but it can be done if you find a way that works for you. Some people find that they can quit cold turkey, while others require aids such as nicotine patches or group therapy. Each method has its own benefits and the key to success is finding the one that is right for you:
- Cold Turkey: This is the simplest way of quitting, but it is also the most difficult. All that this method entails is simply deciding to stop smoking, and sticking with it. If you have exceptionally strong willpower this may be the right method for you, but most people look to other ways to assist them in quitting.
- Nicotine Replacement: Nicotine replacement therapy typically involves the use of a nicotine patch, gum, lozenge, inhaler, or e-cigarettes. By using these nicotine replacements the body receives the nicotine which it is craving, without all of the harmful effects associated with cigarettes. The amount of nicotine in the replacement methods can be decreased over time until your body is able to break away from nicotine completely.
- Non-Nicotine Medication: Two medications that do not contain nicotine but can aid you in quitting are Bupropion hydrochloride and Varenicline. These drugs work by preventing the chemicals which make you crave nicotine from getting to your brain. These medications may help you to quit smoking, but may not be the best choice for you depending on what medications you currently take (these drugs can interact badly with some medications) or if the drugs cause behavioral side effects.
- Hypnosis: Hypnosis may be an avenue to explore to aid in quitting. Hypnosis is used in an attempt to associate negative and unpleasant outcomes with smoking at a subconscious level and reduce or eliminate the desire to smoke. The effectiveness varies widely from person to person, and it is also believed that one in four people cannot be hypnotized at all.
- Cognitive Behavior Therapy: Behavioral therapy is another method of trying to quit which does not involve drugs or other substances. In Cognitive Behavior Therapy a trained therapist works through individual issues and teaches you how to cope with feelings, distorted and negative thought patterns, and also helps to change incorrect beliefs. The therapy also helps to deal with the stress and unhealthy thoughts and behavior that often come with quitting.
- Support Groups: You are not the only one who is trying to quit smoking, and you do not have to do it alone. There are many support groups for those attempting to quit which can make it easier to accomplish. Support groups can help you stay motivated, let you get your feelings and thoughts out in a safe environment, provide you with hope and the confidence you need to quit and help you stick with your decision to quit.
Tips to Help You Quit
All of the benefits mentioned above and more can be yours if you manage to quit smoking cigarettes for good. Even knowing all of the benefits, though, it can still be very difficult to quit and stick to it. These tips can help you maintain your resolve on the way to a smoking-free life:
- Eat your fruits and vegetables: Researchers at the University of Buffalo conducted a study to determine whether eating fruits and vegetables would help those who quit smoking from relapsing. Their results stated that those who ate more found it easier to fight off their addiction and also suffered from fewer cravings.
- Know why you want to quit: Decide why you want to quit, be it for your child, your good looks, your health, or any other reason, and stick to it. Remind yourself regularly why you are quitting and reaffirm that it is worth it.
- Don’t do it alone: Get help from your friends, your family, and other important people in your life. Quitting can be hard, and those close to you can make it easier, and help keep you on the right track.
- Manage your stress: One of the most common problems that people who quit smoking have is the excess stress it causes. Smoking helps deal with stress, and now that you have quit you need to find new ways to cope. Try exercising regularly, getting massages, or even avoiding stressful situations for the first few weeks after you quit.
- Clear out the house: When you quit smoking you should obviously throw out all of the cigarettes you own. What may be less obvious is the fact that your house, car, and other places can still smell like smoke. Remove ashtrays, clean the carpeting and walls, deodorize, and anything else that removes all traces of smoking from your life. If you are reminded less often of smoking you will find it easier to quit.
- Keep trying: If you do not succeed your first try at quitting do not give up. It takes most people many attempts to quit for good, and the only way to succeed is to keep on trying. You can try different methods, products, groups, and many other changes to help you succeed this time around.
- Reward yourself: When you quit smoking you will have all the money you used to spend on cigarettes available to you. Use this money to reward yourself with a gym membership, a new gadget, or whatever makes you happy. Remind yourself when you buy these things that it is quitting that allowed you to get them.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that smoking is one of the worst things you can do to your health, causing problems including cancer, heart disease, and erectile dysfunction. The good news is if you’re looking to quit, there are more resources available now than ever before. Plus, you’ll start to experience the benefits of quitting almost immediately. So do yourself a favor; drop the bad habit and start living a healthier life by taking the necessary steps to stop smoking today.
This article was reviewed and approved by Dr. Holly Lucille.
Photo by aloshbennett