August 28, 2018
Clinical Contributors to this Story
Mihir Maniar, D.O. contributes to topics such as Cardiac / Heart Health, Men’s Health, Women’s Health.
By Erica Florentine
You’ve wisely considered all of the benefits, and now you’re officially ready. It’s time to quit smoking for good!
It’s no surprise that cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. When it comes to your lungs, lung cancer is about 25 percent more common for those who smoke cigarettes versus those who don’t. It’s not just a smokers’ lungs that are suffering, though.
“People tend to immediately associate cigarettes with their negative effects on a smoker’s lungs, but they are also incredibly harmful for their heart health as well,” says Mihir Maniar, D.O., board certified in internal medicine. “Smoking increases the risk of coronary heart disease by 2 to 4 times. Overall, quitting smoking can improve both the length and quality of a person’s life.”
If you’re already equipped with the willpower to quit, that’s half the battle. Let’s consider below some tactics you can use to finally quit smoking.
Try Going Cold Turkey
A recent study published in Annals of Internal Medicine showed cold turkey is the best, most effective method for quitting smoking. The study showed those who quit abruptly – or cold turkey – were more likely than their gradually-quitting counterparts to refrain from smoking four weeks after the experiment, and again when researchers checked in on them six months after the experiment. While you might experience signs of nicotine withdrawal, rest easy knowing these symptoms, such as irritability or trouble sleeping, are just temporary, according to the National Cancer Institute.
Or, Try a Nicotine Replacement, Like Gum or a Patch
For some people, the idea of quitting cold turkey is simply not practical – they don’t feel it would work for them, or perhaps they’ve tried and failed with this method in the past. If you’re someone who doesn’t think dropping cigarettes all at once would work, nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) is another common means of quitting smoking – and it has proven effective. NRT provides you with nicotine, but eliminates the other chemicals found in tobacco. You can get it in the form of gum, a patch, lozenges, and more. According to findings in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, between 50 and 70 percent of people who use NRT to quit smoking are successful in quitting the habit.
Check in With Your Doctor Regularly
“Your doctor is going to have many reasons why you should quit smoking – and they’ll be willing to remind you of them regularly,” explains Dr. Maniar. “Make frequent appointments with your doctor to provide them with an update on your progress. I tend to remind my patients of benefits such as how quitting smoking is directly benefitting their heart, like lessening their risk of having a heart attack. What I always find remarkable, too, is that a smoker’s heart can feel the positive effects after they quit right away – in a few hours their heart rate and blood pressure will begin to drop to a normal level.”
Your doctor can also help you set a “quit date.” If you’re going to be slowly weaning yourself off cigarettes, it’s sometimes helpful for smokers to set a date in which they want to quit officially by. Then, by checking in with your doctor and cutting back slowly along the way – say, reducing your cigarette count by half each week – success could be in your near future.
Consult With Your Doctor about Medications to Help Quit
There are multiple prescription drugs that can be used in the process of quitting smoking. Options include Varenicline (Chantix), Bupropion, Nortriptyline, Clonidine and more.
“Speaking to your doctor will help paint a clear picture of which medication, if any, might work best for you, based on your current state of health, age, gender and how many cigarettes you are currently smoking per day,” says Dr. Maniar.
It’s common for people to feel motivated to achieve a goal when there’s a promise of a reward for doing so. In fact, research shows that a financial reward can incentivize smokers to quit the habit. Think of something of personal value that you want to treat yourself to, like a special getaway or that new laptop you’ve been eyeing. Try setting that as a reward you’ll treat yourself to once you’ve successfully ditched the cigarettes.
Try a Combination of Tactics
One of the most popular methods among those who’ve successfully kicked the habit is a combination of tactics mentioned above and others – such as exercise, relaxation techniques and integrative therapies like hypnosis and acupuncture.
“When trying a combination of multiple strategies, patients tend to be much more successful in their journey to quitting smoking for good,” shares Dr. Maniar. “Remember, what works for one person doesn’t always work for another, so mix it up. Mostly, be sure to have support around you and keep the benefits of quitting front-of-mind at all times.”
For more information on the harmful effects of smoking and how to quit, speak with your doctor.
Dr. Maniar practices at Hackensack Meridian Health Medical Group – Primary Care in West Long Branch (185 Route 36, Building A, Suite 130). Call 848-300-2210 to schedule an appointment with Dr. Maniar.
The material provided through Health Hub is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.