Each January, as we embrace the new year, I think of ways we can improve our wellness.
It’s only natural that in this period of renewal, resolution and goal setting, we consider steps we can take to improve our health and feel better. In the past, I’ve focused on starting small, setting achievable goals and working toward them one step at a time. This year, I’d like to focus on exactly one habit anyone can leave behind for better health: smoking.
If you smoke, the new year is a great time to quit or begin the process of quitting by cutting back and finding healthy alternatives.
I’ve been an advocate for smoking cessation many times over my years writing this column, and it’s a message I’ll continue to spread. Quitting smoking is the single best thing you can do to improve your cardiovascular and overall health, and you’ll be surprised at how quickly you notice a difference in the way you feel.
Nicotine, the addictive chemical in cigarettes, elevates blood pressure and can lead to heart attack or stroke. Twenty minutes after your last cigarette, your heart rate and blood pressure will begin to normalize.
Withing eight hours of quitting, you may begin to feel less short of breath, cough less and notice your stamina returning. This is because your lungs have begun to heal and regain function, and oxygen levels in your body have begun to increase again.
There are, of course, many more long-term benefits.
One year after you quit, your risk of heart disease is reduced by half. After five years, your risk of stroke is the same as a non-smoker.
Ten years after you quit, your risk of developing lung cancer is cut in half, and your risk of developing esophageal, bladder and pancreatic cancers also decreases.
After 15 years, your risk of heart disease is equivalent to that of a non-smoker. So, putting down the cigarette pack can make you feel better soon and bring significant health rewards down the road.
Quitting isn’t easy
Smoking is an incredibly addictive habit, and there’s no easy path to quitting. But there are proven, effective methods.
Studies have shown that quitting cold turkey may not be the most effective route, so start by taking it slow and talking to your doctor. Your physician can offer you helpful resources and develop a cessation plan that works for you.
Here are a few methods you can try as you find your path to quitting:
• Throw away cigarettes, ashtrays and lighters to take temptation out of sight.
• Replace your cravings with healthier alternatives like chewing gum, drinking water or walking when you feel the urge.
• Download an app …….