The benefits of quitting smoking start within 20 minutes of your last cigarette as your blood pressure and heart rate begin to recover. Within 24 hours, your chance of having a heart attack decreases. Within 48 hours, your nerve endings start to regrow. Within weeks, your circulation and lung function can improve. Within one year, your risk of coronary heart disease can decrease by 50 percent, and after 10 years of quitting, your risk of lung cancer can drop by 50 percent.
It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been smoking, how old you are, how bad your health is—quitting smoking has major and immediate benefits for everybody.
“Smoking can lead to lung cancer and other cancers, COPD and emphysema, not to mention you’re also exposing loved ones around you to second-hand smoke, which puts them at risk for the same issues,” says Dina Smith, RN, BSN, a lung nurse navigator at Covenant Health’s Joe Arrington Cancer Center in Lubbock, Texas. “It can get to the point where someone is struggling to breathe and they’re pretty much suffocating. It’s horrible to watch someone go through that kind of pain, but it’s preventable—people just need to quit smoking, and we want to offer them the resources to do that and lead a healthy life.”
If you’re like many smokers, you’ve tried to quit over and over again—whether it was by going “cold turkey” or using nicotine gum or patches—but failed. Nicotine is highly addictive, and it’s no wonder it’s so hard to quit. But don’t let yourself get discouraged—today is the perfect time to try again since the World Health Organization (WHO) has declared May 31 as World No Tobacco Day.
Making a plan to quit smoking takes three steps, says Smith, who runs the smoking cessation program at the Joe Arrington Cancer Center:
- Recognize your triggers. This includes identifying your risk situations and developing strategies to cope. “The hardest part for people trying to quit is that smoking is often used as a stress reliever, and it’s a learned habit,” says Smith. “You have to replace your bad habit with other stress relievers, such as exercising or picking up a new hobby that you enjoy.”
- Build your support group. A key component to successfully kicking the habit is having a strong support system in place, both at home and in the community, says Smith. “You’ve got to have a lot of support to not start smoking again. Friends, family and your physician can help you stick to your quit goal,” she says. “And if there’s someone else smoking in the same house, it’s almost impossible to quit. Everyone has to be willing to try to stop.”
- Start the plan. This includes four smaller steps: First, see your physician, who can evaluate your health and discuss options for medications that may help you quit. Then, sign up for a cessation support plan. Next, keep your goals top-of-mind, and, finally, track your progress. “Your goal may be to see certain health improvements, to save money from not buying cigarettes or to increase your activity level,” says Smith. “Whatever your motivation is, keep it at the forefront of your mind, track it and be inspired by your progress to continue.”
Cessation Support Plans Work
St. Joseph Health offers various resources to get you smoke-free and turn your health around, including cessation programs at both the Joe Arrington Cancer Center in Lubbock as well as at Queen of the Valley Medical Center in Northern California. These programs are free and open to anyone in the community. Participants are offered either one-on-one or group support sessions where you’ll learn to control triggers and overcome withdrawal symptoms. This will be done in synch with any medications your physician has recommended to help quit smoking, whether that’s a nicotine patch, gum, nasal spray, or other options. Statistics have proven that people who participate in a cessation program are much more likely to kick the habit after one year than those who try to quit alone.
Follow Your Health After Quitting
Symptoms of lung cancer often don’t appear until the disease is already at an advanced, non-curable stage, which is why early detection of lung cancer is something that board-certified radiologist Bruce Troup, MD, at Queen of the Valley Medical Center, is passionate about. The Queen now offers a new, low-dose lung CT screening, which uses lower amounts of radiation than a standard chest CT and does not require the use of intravenous (IV) contrast dye.
“The low-dose CT screening is one of the easiest types of screenings you can have; it’s non- invasive and only takes about five minutes,” says Dr. Troup. “By the time you detect lung cancer, unfortunately it is often too late, and the cancer has metastasized. This test has been proven to reduce lung cancer by 30 percent and I have seen it save the lives of my patients and my own mother.”
According to the American Cancer Society, those who meet all of the following criteria may be candidates for this lung cancer screening:
- 55 to 77 years old
- Have at least a 30-pack per year smoking history
- Are either still smoking or have quit smoking within the last 15 years
- In fairly good health. For example, no current symptoms of lung cancer, able to have surgery and other treatments if cancer is found, and other factors.
Let Providence St. Joseph Health help you quit smoking today and turn your health around. To learn more about the Freshstart Smoking Cessation Classes at the Joe Arrington Cancer Center, call (806) 725-8159. To learn more about the Contact the Community Action Napa Valley (CANV) Quit Smoking Program at Queen of the Valley Medical Center, call (707) 253-6100, ext. 132.
This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional's instructions.