It is absolutely essential that one gives up smoking. Each time you inhale cigarette smoke, you are breathing a mixture of four thousand chemical substances — many of them poisonous — into your body. When you inhale cigarette smoke, sulfuric acid not only eats away at the tissue of your lungs, but damages the blood vessels of your heart as well. Studies have shown smoking can also adversely affect your cholesterol levels. And smoking, by the way, is an equal opportunity killer, deadly to both men and women. Quitting is not that easy. This is because smoking is often a complicated physical and emotional addiction.
First and foremost, smoking is a physical addiction. The extent of this addiction can vary: Some people remain virtually non-addicted and can easily give up smoking. But, for most people, smoking is a powerful physical addiction, similar to such strong addictions as heroin and cocaine.
Second, smoking is an ingrained behavioral pattern. People smoke in certain situations, frequently in response to certain stimuli. These situations quickly become linked in the smoker's mind with the act of smoking.
Smoking often takes on a personal, psychological meaning to the smoker. For some, a cigarette may become a 'best friend', or an impossible-to-substitute- way of handling stress. Smoking can seem to be a necessity, both in happy and unhappy situations. For example, when a person who smokes gets a hike in salary, he lights a cigarette to celebrate. But when that same smoker smashes the front fender of his car, he also turns to a cigarette, this time to ease the pain.
Women, especially, tend to look to cigarettes both as a means of handling stress and as a way of keeping their weight down. This is tempting, but also a shortsighted practice as well.
Since smoking is a form of addiction, 80 per cent of smokers who quit usually experience some form of withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms may be intense for two or three days, but within ten to fourteen days after quitting, may subside. Interestingly, studies show the 20 per cent who do not report withdrawal symptoms are often heart attack survivors. Sometimes, suffering a heart attack, or being diagnosed with heart disease, becomes an incentive to quit smoking. Unfortunately, though, often it is not.
What is the most successful way to quit? Studies show that 85 to 90 per cent of people who actually quit do so on their own. They seem to develop their own, individualized strategies. But for some people, especially those who have been unsuccessful on their own, some type of smoking cessation programme can be useful.
Whether you design your own plan or join an established programme, it is essential to figure out what works for you. If quitting smoking brings on withdrawal symptoms, consider a nicotine substitute, such as the popular patch system. Research shows, though, that the patch is mainly effective when combined with participation in a smoking cessation programme. Also, since the patch delivers nicotine directly into your body, you should use these only under the direction of your doctor. If you smoke with the patch on, you are getting a dangerous double dose of nicotine, which could cause serious cardiac problems, such as angina or even heart attack.
The essential thing about quitting smoking is to do it. Sometimes, it may take several tries. But keep faith in yourself. Remember, millions of people have quit and you can be one of them. The risk of smoking is great, but the odds of quitting are on your side.
Why smoking is bad for you — eight reasons to give up:
- Smoking increases the heart rate, constricts major arteries and can create irregularities in the timing of heartbeats.
- Smoking raises the blood pressure. An elevated blood pressure, especially in those who have hypertension or continually high blood pressure, increases the risk of stroke and damages the heart's blood vessels and the kidneys.
- According to some studies, smoking promotes a roughening effect on arterial walls. This irregularity has been linked to the formation of plaque, the substance that clogs arteries.
- Smoking promotes hardening of the arteries by contributing to plaque development. This occurs because smoking lowers the HDL (good) cholesterol levels in the blood. Low levels of HDL cholesterol have been found in those most susceptible to heart disease.
- Smoking increases levels of fibrinogen, a blood component that assists in blood clotting. Studies have indicated that increased fibrinogen may result in the formation of blood clots. These clots may then lodge in arteries narrowed by plaque, stopping blood flow to the heart — the result is a heart attack.
- Smoking may trigger the release of certain types of fat into the blood stream, enhancing plaque development.
- Smoking causes platelets in the blood to collect into clumps or clusters, which then impede blood flow through narrowed vessels.
8. Smoking has an adverse effect on a number of other organs and tissues, including the lungs. Research points to a direct link between cigarette smoking and increased risk of developing many cancers.