Guest Column: Quit Smoking to Celebrate American Heart Month
To the Editor:
February is American Heart Month. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, smoking is a leading cause of heart disease. Smoking can:
- • Raise triglycerides (a type of fat in your blood)
- • Lower "good" cholesterol (HDL)
- • Make blood sticky and more likely to clot, which can block blood flow to the heart and brain
- • Damage cells that line the blood vessels
- • Increase the buildup of plaque (fat, cholesterol, calcium, and other substances) in blood vessels
- • Cause thickening and narrowing of blood vessels
Smoking can lead to the narrowing of blood vessels and high blood pressure and quitting smoking greatly improves heart health. So make a resolution for a healthier life for you and your family. If you're a smoker, quitting is the most important step you can take to protect your health, decreasing the risk of lung disease, cancer, and even early death.
If you want to quit and tried in the past, don’t give up. It often takes several tries before you can quit for good. However, with planning and support, you can become tobacco-free.
The Massachusetts Smokers’ Helpline offers both telephone and online support 24 hours a day, seven days a week (with some holiday exceptions) by calling 1-800-QUIT NOW (1-800-784-8669) or through KeepTryingMA.org. Online support includes quit planning tools and chatting with others who are trying to quit. Free nicotine patches, gum and lozenges are available to eligible users. The combination of free coaching and quit-smoking medication can make you nearly three times as likely to quit for good.
Quitting smoking can be hard. Here are five ways to make it easier:
1. Set a quit date. Choose a quit day this month. Give yourself about two weeks to prepare.
2. Tell your family and friends you plan to quit. Share your quit date with important people and ask for their support. Daily encouragement and planned activities can help you stay on track. For example, a smoke-free lunch date or game night could help distract you.
3. Anticipate and plan for challenges. The urge to smoke is short—usually only three to five minutes. Those moments can feel intense. Before your quit date, write down healthy ways to cope with cravings so you can get past them.
Healthy choices include:
• Drinking water
• Taking a walk or climbing the stairs
• Calling or texting a friend
4. Remove cigarettes and other tobacco from your daily routine. Throw away your cigarettes, lighters, and ashtrays. Clean your car and home. Old cigarette odors can cause cravings.
5. Talk to your doctor about quit-smoking medications. Over-the-counter or prescription medicines can help you quit for good. Your quit coach and pharmacist can also provide guidance.
Make the choice to quit today, making February, American Hearth Month, the beginning to a smoke-free and healthier you.
If you’d like to know more about how you can take action against the tobacco industry's influence in your community, contact Joyce Brewer at Berkshire Area Health Education Center, 413-236- 2145 or at firstname.lastname@example.org or Jim Wilusz at Tri-Town Health Department at Jim@tritownhealth.org and join the effort.
Joyce Brewer is director of the Tobacco-Free Community Partnership Program with Berkshire Area Health Education Center.
Tags: smoking awareness,
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