Smoking kills more than 5 million people a year worldwide, accounting for 1 out of every 10 adult deaths, according to the World Health Organization. Up to half of all current smokers will die from a tobacco-related disease. Smoking, chewing tobacco, and being exposed to secondhand smoke greatly increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes. In some cases, the risk of heart problems in people who smoke or who are exposed to smoke may be three times greater than that of people who don't smoke. The risk of a heart attack in people who stop smoking decreases over time. Smoking also significantly increases the risk of peripheral artery disease, which damages the blood vessels in the legs and increases the risk of disability and even amputation.
Quitting smoking can be a challenge, but with the James E. Cary Cancer Center’s Break Free-Freedom from Smoking program, you will have the resources, tools and support to help you succeed!
The Break Free program follows the American Lung Association’s stop smoking program. Many smokers find it hard to quit because there are several aspects to their addiction. Trained facilitators teach smokers to recognize physical, mental, and social cues for smoking, giving smokers a better chance of quitting for good.
“If you smoke, you need to quit. It’s as simple as that,” says Dr. Bassem Mikhail, Cardiologist for the Hannibal Clinic and member of the Hannibal Regional Hospital Medical Staff. “Quitting smoking improves your health almost immediately. Your heart and lungs are impacted every time you smoke. There is absolutely no amount of smoking that could be considered safe.”
It takes only moments after you quit smoking for your health to begin improving. Blood pressure and pulse rates return to normal within 20 minutes. Your chance of a heart attack begins to decrease within 24 hours. Nerve endings start to regrow and your ability to taste and smell increases by the time you have been smoke free from 48 hours. It takes about a month to notice a decrease in coughing, sinus infection, fatigue and shortness of breath. An important long-term effect is your risk of dying from a heart attack or stroke is reduced by up to 50% after one year of being smoke free.
The Break Free program offers an individualized approach for stopping tobacco use – including individual counseling and coaching with an American Lung Association trained facilitator, tobacco cessation classes and peer support, online resources, information on nicotine replacement products and a voucher for a one-month supply of a tobacco replacement product. The classes are currently offered free of charge through James E. Cary Cancer Center, made possible by a grant from the Missouri Foundation for Health.
Are you ready to quit? Set a quit date and completely stop smoking on that day, before your quit date reduce your cigarette use. Remember, there is no safe level of cigarette smoking. Make a list of short and long term benefits and reason to quit smoking. Identify the times you are most likely to smoke and let your friends, family and co-workers know your plan to quit and the date. Your friends, family and co-workers will be better prepared to support you if they know your plan.
Make a plan about what you will do instead of smoking at those times when you are most likely to smoke and be as specific as possible. For example, drink tea instead of coffee. Tea may not trigger the desire for a cigarette. Or, take a walk when you feel stressed. Remove ashtrays and cigarettes from the car. Put pretzels or hard candies there instead. Find activities that focus your hands and mind, but try to make sure they are not taxing or fattening.
Make other changes in your lifestyle. Change your daily schedule and habits. Eat at different times or eat several small meals instead of three large ones. Satisfy your oral habits in other ways; eat celery or another low-calorie snack or chew sugarless gum. Go to public places and restaurants where smoking is prohibited or restricted. Eat regular meals, and don't eat too much candy or sweet things. Get more exercise, take walks or ride a bike because exercise helps relieve the urge to smoke.
Set short-term quitting goals and reward yourself when you meet them. Every day, put the money you normally spend on cigarettes in a jar. Later, buy something you like. Try not to think about all the days ahead you will need to avoid smoking. Take it one day at a time. Even one puff or one cigarette will make your desire for more cigarettes even stronger, however, it is normal to make mistakes. So even if you have one cigarette, you don't need to take the next one.
James E. Cary Cancer Center is now accepting registrations for the next eight week series of Break Free classes starting February 27th. Break Free can provide you with the resources needed to assist you with quitting use of tobacco products and living a healthier lifestyle. Call or visit carycancercenter.org to see the next available class series and its location. To register call 573-406-1633 or visit carycancercenter.org/breakfree.