Today's Medicine

If You Need Reasons to Quit...

The most important resolution

We’re just a couple of weeks in to 2018, and whether written down or stored in the back of our minds, many of us have a list of how we will improve ourselves this year. We promise to lose weight, exercise more, drink less, eat healthier or spend more time at home. 

If I could make a list of New Year’s resolutions for the 15 percent of my patients who smoke, it would look like this:

  1. Quit smoking.

It’s a short list, but if you smoke, quitting is the single most important thing you can do for your health. 

My list of “why”

From a medical perspective, the list of reasons why to give up smoking are staggering:

  • 33 percent of deaths from heart disease and stroke in the U.S. are related to smoking
  • Smoking contributes to multiple cancers – lung, colon, head and neck, throat, esophageal, kidney, liver, bladder, stomach, breast, cervical and leukemia – just to name a few
  • Smokers have an increased risk of catching, and then dying, from respiratory infections, such as pneumonia, influenza, bronchitis and the common cold
  • The lungs of a smoker decline at a faster rate than a nonsmoker, leading to COPD
  • The number of cigarettes smoked daily directly correlates with the risk of developing diabetes
  • Women who smoke lose bone strength faster than a nonsmoker and have an increased risk of hip fracture
  • Smoking increases the risk of infertility and pregnancy complications
  • Tobacco use increases the risk of early menopause and erectile dysfunction
  • Smokers are more likely to develop stomach ulcers which then take longer to heal
  • Complications from surgery are more common in smokers
  • Smokers are more likely to develop gum and mouth infections
  • Smokers suffer from a greater rate of dementia
  • Smokers are four times more likely to become blind as they age compared to nonsmokers

Your list of “why”

But my list for you is not nearly as important as your list of reasons to quit. Your list might look more like this:

  • Food tastes and smells better
  • Your clothing, breath, car and house don’t smell like cigarettes
  • You’ll save approximately $2,300 each year to put toward that trip you’ve always wanted
  • You’ll watch your grandchildren grow up
  • You can be active without getting so winded
  • You will live longer and healthier

Quitting isn’t easy

Nicotine is a strongly addictive chemical and you will withdraw from it. The symptoms you can expect from nicotine withdrawal are weight gain and increased appetite, depression or anxiety, irritability, difficulty concentrating, and restlessness or trouble sleeping. 

These symptoms are the most intense in the first three days after you quit and then gradually lessen over the next 3-4 weeks. The average weight gain from quitting smoking is about 10 pounds in six months, but the risk of weight gain is far outweighed by the benefits of quitting smoking. 

According to the World Health Organization:

  • Within 20 minutes of stopping smoking, your heart rate and blood pressure decrease
  • Your carbon monoxide levels return to normal in 12 hours
  • Coughing and shortness of breath improve within a year
  • Your risk of having a heart attack is cut in half after 1 year
  • After five years, your risk of stroke is the same as a nonsmoker
  • After 10 years, your risk of lung cancer drops by 50 percent
  • You gain between 3-10 years of life, depending on when you quit smoking

Getting the help you need

Regardless of your reasons to quit, write them down, commit yourself to the process, and pick your quit date. Once you’ve decided to quit, there is plenty of help along the way. 

Smoking is a disease, much like diabetes. I don’t expect my diabetic patients to treat themselves, and I don’t expect my smokers to quit without help! Please reach out… Insurance plans are required to cover tobacco cessation counseling and medications.

Your Methodist Physicians Clinic primary care provider can help customize the best plan for you to succeed. Even if this isn’t your first attempt to quit and you’ve “tried everything,” there are always more options available. We know formal tobacco cessation counseling and medications are more effective than either treatment alone. 

Medications to help with quitting smoking and treating withdrawal symptoms are generally safe and well-tolerated, and your doctor can review what’s the best option for you. The toll-free number 1-800-QUIT-NOW provides free advice and counseling over several phone calls and can help you fight the temptation to take a puff of a cigarette. In addition, Methodist offers QuitSmart®, a smoking cessation program. In three sessions, you’ll identify your triggers for smoking, plan how to confront challenges and temptation, develop strategies for stress and weight management, and prevent relapse. 

If you relapse, don’t get discouraged. Set another quit date in the next 30 days. It takes the average American smoker seven times to quit before they make it smoke-free. Just don’t quit on quitting!

About the Author

A child of a military family, internal medicine physician Dr. Shana Peper was raised to be selfless and do whatever she could to help others.

She treats a wide range of patients at Methodist Physicians Clinic Indian Hills.

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