With February declared Heart Month, many countries and organizations around the world are encouraging us all to start good habits now that will improve heart health not just for February but for life.
With smokers almost twice as likely to have a heart attack compared with people who have never smoked, and smokers under 50 eight times more likely to have a major heart attack according to recent research, quitting smoking is the single best thing you can do for your heart health.
According to the British Heart Foundation, it’s never too late to give up and reap the benefits, with the risk to heart health decreasing significantly soon after you stop.
Here we round up top five tips to help smokers stub out and reduce the risk of not only coronary heart disease, but also of stroke and various cancers.
1. First of all make a plan. Think about what could help you stop smoking, such as buying some nicotine-replacement products, or booking an appointment with your doctor for help and advice.
Bernard Antoine, a smoking cessation and addiction specialist in Paris, France, also suggests trying hypnotherapy and cognitive behavioral therapies (CBT) to help you successfully quit, while a small study from the University of Haifa suggests that taking omega-3 supplements can help reduce cravings.
2. New Year might have passed but it’s still not too late to set healthy new habits for 2017, so make a date to give up, and stick to it!
Although research is mixed as to whether going cold turkey or cutting down gradually is most effective, try to use your “quit day” to throw away all your cigarettes, tobacco, lighters and ashtrays and start afresh, and have your plan from step 1 ready to go.
And if you’re female you might want to time the date with your menstrual cycle, with research suggesting that nicotine cravings may be strongest after your period and that women should start the stop-smoking process just after ovulation.
3. Tell your family and friends that you’re quitting and enlist their support — a 2016 study showed that smokers with partners who offered practical and emotional support and encouragement were more likely to successfully stop smoking than those who had unsupportive partners.
You could also consider asking friends and relatives who have quit for their own advice and success stories to help keep you going. Talking to your doctor, a nurse or pharmacist can also be helpful.
4. Keep busy, it will help to take your mind off cigarettes and break the habit.
Try to change your routine, avoid the shop where you normally buy cigarettes, and don’t replace tobacco with e-cigarettes, as Antoine believes that this does not help most smokers break the habit.
5. Treat yourself. Stopping smoking is difficult, so reward yourself with the money you’re saving by not smoking and buy yourself something special.