Smoking is a primary risk factor for cardiovascular disease (CVD). Especially if you have coronary artery disease (CAD), better known as “heart disease,” that’s reason enough to quit. But if you need more reasons, the Surgeon General stresses that cigarettes are an addictive, deadly mix of over 7,000 chemicals that damage your arteries, lungs, reproductive system, and children’s health. Smoking also makes diabetes more difficult to manage, and it can cause sudden blood clots, heart attacks, and stroke. And don’t forget, smokeless tobacco is no better than cigarettes, and they both put you at higher risk for cancer.
It may sound overwhelming, but there’s something you can do about your risk: Quit tobacco today, and you can reap the many benefits of quitting! Quitting isn’t easy. In fact, it may be one of the hardest things you’ll ever do. But it may also be the most significant way to control and improve your heart health.
And if you’ve tried to quit smoking before, you know that a tool or technique that worked for someone else might not work for you. Some people do quit “cold turkey,” but most of us need a combination of strategies and support to succeed. Take it one step at a time and work with your doctor and loved ones. Together, you can succeed!
Tips for quitting smoking
Here are four steps to quitting smoking that will greatly improve your chance for success:
- Know and often remind yourself of why you want to quit – Once you’ve decided to quit smoking, you need a plan tailored just for you. Start by listing the three most important reasons you want to quit. Highlight them, write them down, make them your mantra, keep them close at hand, tape them up in places you’ll see them, and review them often. They will be your first defense against sneaky cravings.
- Learn why you smoke and how you’ll manage triggers – Have you ever thought about why you smoke? Maybe it’s just a habit, but most likely, there are specific triggers, such as moods, feelings, places, people, or situations, that make you want to smoke. Whatever your reasons, identifying them will help you anticipate circumstances before you light your next cigarette—so you can choose not to smoke and try doing something else instead.
- Plan your strategies and success – If you plan to quit smoking before you even start, you’ll give yourself the best possible opportunity to succeed. Set a quit date and then gather tools; strategies; resources; and as many supportive professionals, friends, and family members as possible.
- Don’t give up; support is key – It’s not easy quitting, but don’t give up. And if you do slip up, go easy on yourself—keep trying and stick it out. Receiving support can be extremely helpful in encouraging you to keep going along your journey. For example, you can talk to your family and friends about quitting smoking, join a support group, and read self-help motivational books if you need extra encouragement.
The following links for more information on quitting smoking and your heart health:
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – How to Quit Smoking
- National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) – Quit Smoking
- The American Heart Association (AHA) – Quit Smoking, Vaping and Tobacco Use
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) – Quit Smoking
- U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) – How Smoking Affects Heart Health