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What Your Lungs (and Heart) Don’t Need

by Nurse Jill


Part 2 in a series about the factors that negatively impact your health the most: information to

help you stay on the path to small health successes in 2024.


Let’s talk about smoking.


But before we do I want to encourage you to stay on the path to health. Nobody knows it better than a healthcare worker who has assisted countless number of individuals overcome health crisis, both chronic and acute: having your health to support you when you need it is so worth the extra effort to regain or keep it.


Remember we’re not looking to totally overhaul our health in one fell swoop. We’re just

looking to make small improvements in order to avoid risks and complications that will be very

unpleasant and costly.


So, keep at it, even if you think you’ve already failed, start again, start small, but be

persistent. Small, persistent, and consistent habits is what got us to where we are today and

small, consistent habits will get to where we want to be.


Now about smoking … the habit described by the American Lung Association as “the

number one cause of preventable disease and death worldwide.” Over 480,000 people die each year in the United States alone from smoking-related diseases.


Not only detrimental to your health but expensive, too. If you smoke a pack of day you

are likely loosing over $300 a month and close to $4,000 per year. Within ten years you’d have lost $40,000 to a habit that is draining your health.


But putting smoking in the past is one of the hardest things to do. You not only have to

remove an addictive chemical that has triggered your brain to feel good for years but you have also built habits around smoking which include social time, milestones in your day, and a coping mechanism for stress.


When you quit you will go through withdrawal which is difficult. It is best to have a

buddy backup system to help keep you accountable but even more important is to build new

daily habits. If you merely take smoking out of your day it will be harder to quit but if you build

something new into your day then you will have an easier time not fixating on what you’re

missing out on. Find a new way to socialize with friends, find another way to mark the time

passing during the day, and find a good stress coping mechanism. Finding good distractions is a tried and true method.


A word of warning: make the habit a healthy one. Don’t get drawn into another addictive

substance (like alcohol or vaping or chewing tobacco) and just end up with similar health risks.


When you try to quit be prepared for the side effects and make a plan to cope. Irritability,

anxiety, nicotine cravings, and trouble sleeping are all common. Make plans for the first couple of weeks that take all of these into account. Plan a small trip away with a friend to distract you. Plan dinners over the first couple of weeks with family to keep you accountable. The longer you go without smoking the easier it will get.


Talk to your doctor about possibly using Nicotine Replacement Therapy. If you use one

of these products you can tackle building new daily habits without cigarettes before also having to tackle all the side effects from detoxing your system from nicotine.


The point is: know that it is going to be a bit of a challenge and make a plan to deal with

those challenges before jumping onto the wagon. There are a lot of resources online that offer tips and tricks for successfully quitting.


Mayo Clinic reported that 60% of adults who try to quit eventually are indeed successful

but not usually on the first try. So be persistent. Even if you’ve tried before and were’t able to

make the change permanent, try again. Even if you don’t quit perfectly - keep trying to quit so

you can claim all the health benefits that your body is craving.


What will quitting smoking do for your health?

  • Within just 2 weeks of quitting smoking your circulation and your lung function start to

improve. The longer you stay away from smoking the better this gets.

  • As early as 1 month into your smokeless life your smokers cough and shortness of breath can start to decrease, though this can sometimes take up to 9 months to notice a big difference.

  • Quitting can add ten years back to your life.

  • Staying away from cigarettes lowers your risk for 12 different cancers.

  • Your risk of coronary heart disease drops quickly during the first 2 years of

  • Your risk for pneumonia and COPD (a chronic lung condition that progresses throughout your life) also drop when you put out your cigarette.


There are a long list of other benefits to a smokeless life. You probably already know that

smoking (and vaping for that matter) are bad for you. What you need is a plan to make the first

few weeks manageable. So find a friend, make a commitment, make a plan, find your why, and don’t give up.


For more help:

1-800-QUIT-NOW

Talk to your doctor

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