One of the best ways to reduce your risk of coronary heart disease is to avoid tobacco smoke. Don’t ever start smoking. If you already smoke, quit. No matter how much or how long you’ve smoked, quitting will benefit you.
Also, try to avoid secondhand smoke. Don’t go to places where smoking is allowed. Ask friends and family members to not smoke in the house and car.
Quitting smoking will benefit your heart and blood vessels. For example:
- Among persons diagnosed with coronary heart disease, quitting smoking greatly reduces the risk of recurrent heart attack and cardiovascular death. In many studies, this reduction in risk has been 50 percent or more.
- Heart disease risk associated with smoking begins to decrease soon after you quit, and for many people it continues to decrease over time.
- Your risk of atherosclerosis and blood clots related to smoking declines over time after you quit smoking.
Quitting smoking can lower your risk of heart disease as much as, or more than, common medicines used to lower heart disease risk, including aspirin, statins, beta blockers, and ACE inhibitors.
Strategies to Quit Smoking
Quitting smoking is possible, but it can be hard. Millions of people have quit smoking successfully and remain nonsmokers. Surveys of current adult smokers find that 70 percent say they want to quit.
There are a few ways to quit smoking, including quitting all at once (going “cold turkey”) or slowly cutting back the number of cigarettes you smoke before quitting completely. Use the method that works best for you. Below are some strategies to help you quit.
Get Ready to Quit
If you want to quit smoking, try to get motivated. Make a list of the reasons you want to quit. Write a contract to yourself that outlines your plan for quitting.
If you’ve tried to quit smoking in the past, think about those attempts. What helped you during that time, and what made it harder?
Know what triggers you to smoke. For example, do you smoke after a meal, while driving, or when you’re stressed? Develop a plan to handle each trigger.
Set a quit date, and let those close to you know about it. Ask your family and friends for support in your effort to quit smoking.
You also can get support from hotlines and websites. Examples include 1–800–QUIT–NOW and smokefree.gov. These resources can help you set up a plan for quitting smoking.
Get Medicine and Use It Correctly
Talk with your doctor and pharmacist about medicines and over-the-counter products that can help you quit smoking. These medicines and products are helpful for many people.
You can buy nicotine gum, patches, and lozenges from a drug store. Other medicines that can help you quit smoking are available by prescription.
Learn New Skills and Behaviors
Try new activities to replace smoking. For example, instead of smoking after a meal, take a brisk walk in your neighborhood or around your office building. Take up knitting, carpentry, or other hobbies and activities that keep your hands busy. Try to avoid other people who smoke. Ask those you can’t avoid to respect your efforts to stop smoking and not smoke around you.
Remove cigarettes, ashtrays, and lighters from your home, office, and car. Don’t smoke at all—not even one puff. Also, try to avoid alcohol and caffeine. (People who drink alcohol are more likely to start smoking again after quitting.)
Be Prepared for Withdrawal and Relapse
Be prepared for the challenge of withdrawal. Withdrawal symptoms often lessen after only 1 or 2 weeks of not smoking, and each urge to smoke lasts only a few minutes.
You can take steps to cope with withdrawal symptoms. If you feel like smoking, wait a few minutes for the urge to pass. Remind yourself of the benefits of quitting. Don’t get overwhelmed—take tasks one step at a time.
If you relapse (slip and smoke after you’ve quit), consider what caused the slip. Were you stressed out or unprepared for a situation that you associate with smoking? Make a plan to avoid or handle this situation in the future.
Getting frustrated with your slip will only make it harder to quit in the future. Accept that you slipped, learn from the slip, and recommit to quit smoking.
If you start smoking regularly again, don’t get discouraged. Instead, find out what you need to do to get back on track so you can meet your goals. Set a new quit date, and ask your family and friends to help you. Most people who smoke make repeated attempts to quit before doing so successfully.
All of Our Stories Are Red: Eileen's Story04/11/2014
Eileen was a two-pack-a-day smoker for 28 years. When she suffered a heart attack, the surgeon opened her chest and found a 98 percent blockage, and her arteries disintegrated. Eileen hasn't touched a cigarette since that day. Heart disease is preventable, and every woman has the power to lower her risk factors. For Eileen, every day she spends--as a volunteer firefighter and EMT, and with her son and grandsons--is a gift.
The Heart Truth is a national campaign for women about heart disease and is sponsored by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
The NHLBI "Grand Opportunity" Exome Sequencing Project05/16/2012
This video—presented by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health—discusses the NHLBI's Exome Sequencing Project. Made possible by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, this project provided six awards at five academic institutions to identify genetic connections to heart, lung, and blood diseases. Individual studies will address critical health issues, such as heart attack, stroke, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure, overweight and obesity, and others.