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Family Health

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes (and Heart)

If you smoke, you may be used to it getting in your eyes. However, you’re careful to smoke downwind from your non-smoking friends. You respect others and smoke outside. You try not to smoke around your kids. But what about your heart? It doesn’t have a choice. When you smoke, you’re taking your heart along for the ride, even if it is dangerous road on which to travel. Trying to quit is hard – and we’d like to help.

If You Smoke, You’ve Heard This Before
If you smoke, you know that it’s bad for your lungs. You may have heard that cigarette smoking is responsible for one in every five deaths in the U.S.
Cigarette smoking causes:
  • Atherosclerosis: a buildup of plaque in the arteries which leads to coronary heart disease and chest pain, heart attack, heart failure, arrhythmias (irregular heart rhythms) and death.
  • Peripheral arterial disease: plaque builds up in the arteries leading to the head, organs and limbs which can lead to heart disease, heart attack and stroke.
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) which includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis and makes it increasingly difficult to breathe.
  • Lung cancer which can be fatal. It’s estimated that about 80% of lung cancer deaths are from smoking.
That’s the bad news. The good news is that people quit smoking every day. Some use medical assistance (a patch or pills) but many just quit.

Twelve Tips to Stop Smoking
The first two days are tough, and the first two weeks are major accomplishment. When you quit cold turkey, try these tips to join the permanent ranks of non-smokers.
  • Avoid caffeine. Is your morning coffee part of your routine? Switch from three cups to one cup. Caffeine can make people tense and jittery and anxious for a cigarette.
  • Brush your teeth. When you feel the urge to smoke, go brush your teeth. Your mouth feels fresh and your breath is better too. Why foul it up with a cigarette?
  • Draft some help. In Alcoholics Anonymous, people will enlist the help of a sponsor. When you try to quit smoking, you can do the same thing. Enlist the help of a former smoker who can act as your “first call for help.” He or she can talk you off the ledge when you’re considering a run to the local gas station for a pack of cigarettes.
  • Eat small meals and sip cold water. The small meals can help you get past the urge to smoke. Just make sure that what you’re putting in your mouth is healthy. Also, research shows that sipping cold water through a straw releases dopamine (your natural feel-good chemical) and can improve your mood.
  • Forgive your bad moods. When you quit, you may feel stress, anger and frustration. This is pretty normal, so forgive yourself for being crabby, and then distract yourself. Make sure you’re doing things you like to do.
  • Get back on the wagon. If you slip up and light up, don’t give up. Just get back on the wagon and keep trying. Try to figure out what triggered your relapse and work to find a strategy to avoid or handle that trigger.
  • Go places where people don’t smoke. For some, it’s going to a movie or to the library. You could go for a walk or go swimming. Or take a bath. Once again, this may be a temporary replacement while you’re kicking the habit.
  • Make a list. Some benefits start right away, so make a list of them. You’re saving money. Food tastes better and you smell better. You’re in control. Your kids or spouse smile at you more often. Make a note of the ways in which your life is better and post it on the fridge.
  • Motivate yourself. Use sticky notes and post them in places where you normally smoke. Post pictures that remind you of why you decided to quit. For some, positives photos of family and children work. For others, negative photos of diseased lungs or a tracheotomy work.
  • Move it! When you get a craving, get active. Take a walk. Hop on your bike. Pump some weights. Exercise releases dopamine which can keep your motivation up.
  • Stay away from alcohol. Alcohol impacts self-restraint, which is the last thing you need when quitting smoking. You may need to avoid some situations or people for a short while and that’s OK. It’s temporary. Eventually you’ll be able to be in situations that are smoking triggers and resist the urge to light up.
  • Stay busy. For the short term, fill your days with things to do that don’t involve smoking. Get a manicure or pedicure and have lunch with a friend. Grab a buddy and go rock wall climbing or window shop for your next car. This is highly individual. The key is to stay busy.
Many people try quitting many times before they are successful. Don’t give up. Your heart and lungs will thank you for it. Live long and prosper!

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