At Williamson Medical Center’s Cardiopulmonary division, we see mostly patients with mid- to late-stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD as many know it. I would say that 80 percent to 85 percent of the patients we see are having problems as a result of smoking.
As many as 15 percent of our patients are second-hand smoke patients who have maybe never smoked themselves, but live with someone who smokes.
That one statistic right there should be enough to make anyone who is still smoking put down their pack.
It’s not too late
It was once thought that smoking does permanent, irreversible damage to your lungs, but about 10 years ago, some studies showed that if you stop smoking, you can recoup some of the lung capacity you have lost. For a person who stops smoking in their 40s or 50s and maintains an active lifestyle, it is possible to get back the lung function of a non-smoker. But that level of activity goes hand-in-hand with quitting smoking as being a key factor in having good success.
Exercise not only helps keep you in shape, it can also be a great way to help stop the bad habit of smoking by replacing a routine “smoke break” with a routine brisk walk around the block.
When you quit smoking, there is an addiction you are dealing with. So if 2 p.m. everyday triggers a smoke break in your mind, we recommend you pick an activity that should take the place of those urges to go out and smoke. Exercise releases the same endorphins that smoking would, but without any of the negative side effects.
Walk this way
We recommend a good fast-paced walk or run for anyone who is healthy enough for exercise. You should always get clearance from your doctor first. But if you can monitor your heart rate and get it up 40 beats per minute above your resting heart rate that signals a good enough activity to release the good endorphins. It can make you feel good about your day and it takes your mind off wanting to smoke.
Be a quitter
We offer regular smoking cessation classes here at Williamson Medical Center and the most common reasons we hear that people want to quit smoking are for the health benefit, because they want to be around to see kids or grandchildren grow up and the cost.
All good reasons. But let’s revisit that health benefit for a second.
The science of it shows a person can smoke for one year and it can do the same damage as someone who started smoking 25 to 30 years ago. The toxins from the nicotine you are inhaling are going into your bloodstream, which affects every part of your body, in addition to your lungs.
All sorts of carcinogenic cancers are being found all over the body. Even in places like the kneecaps, kidneys, bladder and mouth.
Quality of life
If a smoker lives to be 70 years old, for the last five to 10 years of their life, breathing for them is going to be like breathing through a straw. They will most likely spend the remainder of their life on and off of a ventilator, coupled with regular hospital admissions because of smoking’s detrimental damage to the lungs. The last five to 10 years of life for this category of people can be horrible.
Not to mention the fact that this person could have lived to be 85 if they hadn’t smoked. We know now that people can lead a healthier life if they quit smoking.
The biggest question we hear is “how do I quit?” We recommend establishing a “quit day.” Start there and then decide if you want to use some nicotine replacement therapy like the gum or patches. If you choose one of these you absolutely cannot smoke while using them. If you opt for one of the pill forms of replacement therapy, smoking can be tapered.
Once you’ve established your quit day, come up with a plan for urges and cravings. When the cravings come, have something to take the place of a cigarette. It can be anything from a crossword puzzle to a brisk walk to calling a friend and having a conversation.
It comes down to changing your behavior. Clean out your house and your car. Get rid of ashtrays and take on the persona of a non-smoker. You have to believe it.
Success depends on how committed a person is to changing. If you are committed and ready to take back control of your life, I say go for it!Share this Article