You've probably heard that smoking causes lung cancer. But, that's not the only danger. There are many reasons lifelong smokers live 13 to 14 years less than nonsmokers. For example, smoking at least doubles your risk of dying from a heart attack or stroke.
Cigarette smoke is full of toxins, which can include arsenic, formaldehyde and hydrogen cyanide, among others. These toxins cause plaque buildup in the arteries to harden. Along with calcium, cholesterol and the other deposits that form plaque, the buildup eventually can harden the arteries, a condition known as arteriosclerosis.
"You take a risk every time you smoke a cigarette because the chemicals in cigarette smoke irritate plaques, causing them to break free from the artery walls," said Kim Farris, R.N., at Lake Regional Cardiac Rehab.
Some young smokers may think they have time to quit later, believing the buildup of plaque is a slow process that takes years and eventually forms a blood clot. In fact, Farris said most blood clots don't occur from a slow buildup; they occur because a plaque ruptures and becomes mobile in the bloodstream.
It's common for people who have smoked for years to think the damage is already done and it's too late to quit. That's false. According to the U.S. Surgeon General's report on tobacco, within just one year of quitting your risk for coronary heart disease drops 50 percent. It continues to decrease with time until it becomes the same as someone who has never smoked.
Of course, you already know smoking is bad for you. If it was easy to quit, everyone would.
"Fortunately, many health insurance companies realize helping their policy holders quit smoking can be cost effective, and pay for some or all of the cost for smoking cessation programs," Farris said. "Find out what smoking cessation benefits your insurance provides."
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, face-to-face counseling can improve success rates of quitting smoking, compared with trying to quit on your own. Primary care providers are qualified to offer counseling for smoking cessation and receiving counseling for smoking cessation is covered by Medicare. Ask your doctor about counseling for smoking cessation, and prescriptions that might help you stop smoking.
The Miller and Morgan county health departments continually offer eight-week smoking cessation classes. To sign up for the next class in Miller County, call 369-2359; in Morgan County call 378-5438, ext. 237.
The CDC also found that smokers were more likely to talk about smoking cessation anonymously over the phone, rather than face-to-face. If you feel embarrassed about talking to your doctor, Preferred Family Health now offers an online smoking cessation class, which is recommended by the Camden County Health Department. Users create an online avatar and attend a virtual eight-week program at their convenience. The live cessation counselor provides suggestions, support and even smoking cessation products. You can enroll by sending an email to email@example.com.
Page 2 of 2 - If you don't have internet access, the government also provides a free telephone service that allows you to anonymously talk to a quit coach by calling 1-800-QUITNOW.