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Be a Quitter: How to Stop Smoking and Improve Your Health

November 06, 2021

If you're among the 32 million smokers in the United States, now's the time to quit.

Why Should I Quit Smoking?

Smoking is the leading cause of heart attacks and lung disease. The good news is that many of these risks can be reversed simply by quitting smoking. If you quit smoking you will:
  • Lower your blood pressure and heart rate almost immediately.
  • Lower your risk of a heart attack within 24 hours of quitting smoking.
  • Have thinner blood, which is less likely to form dangerous blood clots.
  • Lower the stress on your heart and allow it to move the blood around your body more easily and efficiently.
  • Lower the levels of cholesterol and fats circulating in your blood, helping to slow the buildup of cholesterol in your arteries.
  • Help prevent scarring of the lungs which causes permanent damage.
  • Notice within two weeks of quitting that it’s easier to walk up the stairs because you may be less short of breath.
  • Decrease your risk for developing emphysema by quitting when you are young, before you have done years of damage to the delicate air sacs in your lungs.
  • Prevent new DNA damage and even help repair the damage that has already been done. Quitting smoking immediately is the best way to lower your risk of getting cancer.
  • It can rewire your brain and help break the cycle of addiction.

Make a Quit Plan

Quitting smoking can be hard, so a good plan can make all the difference. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests:
  1. Set a quit date. Choose the Great American SmokeOut or another quit day within the next 2 weeks.
  2. Tell your family and friends about your quit plan. Share your quit date with the important people in your life and ask for support. A daily phone call, e-mail, or text message can help you stay on course and provide moral support.
  3. Be prepared for challenges. The urge to smoke is short — usually only three to five minutes. Even one puff can feed a craving and make it stronger. So be ready with healthy ways to cope with urges: Drink water, take a walk or ride your bike, listen to a favorite song or play a game, call or text a friend.
  4. Remove cigarettes and other tobacco from your home, car, and workplace. Throw away your cigarettes, matches, lighters, and ashtrays. Clean and freshen your car, home, and workplace. Old cigarette odors can cause cravings.
  5. Talk to your doctor, pharmacist, or quit-line coach about quit options. Nicotine patches, gum, or other approved quit medication can help with cravings.

Help!

Free help is available at 1.800.QUIT.NOW (1.800.784.8669) and also at 1.855.DÉJELO.YA (1.855.335.3569) for Spanish speakers. Or get 24/7 help with a Smokefree app for your smartphone: quitSTART and QuitGuide are two good options.

Hartford HealthCare Cancer Institute