RIDGEWOOD, N.J. -- Are you a smoker or tobacco user? Do you know what the greatest cause of death is from cigarette smoking? Most people would say lung cancer. True, smoking is the leading cause of this cancer, which kills approximately 160,000 Americans a year. But what many don't realize is that cigarettes may cause even more deaths from heart attack—smoking is believed to be the cause of about one in every four deaths from coronary artery disease and to be a major cause of stroke as well.
The good news is that you can greatly reduce this risk—even if you've been smoking for years. Researchers have shown, for instance, that women between ages 35 and 39 who quit smoking can add an average of three years to their lives. Fifteen years after quitting altogether, the risk of death for ex-smokers is almost the same as for people who never lit up.
In honor of the American Cancer Society’s annual Great American Smokeout, which took place on Thursday, Nov. 17, the Valley Hospital shares some tips on how to kick the butt:
- Choose your method and stick with it. Quitting "cold turkey" can be an effective way to stop smoking. But if you fear you won't be able to handle the sudden withdrawal, try a gradual approach instead.
- Keep a smoking diary. Before quitting day, keep a written record of all the situations that trigger your desire to smoke. Then come up with alternative coping strategies to help you deal with those stressors after you quit.
- Destroy all traces. If you quit cold turkey, immediately get rid of every cigarette in your house and office. Hide your ashtrays, matches and lighters.
- Flush out toxins. Because nicotine is eliminated from the body by way of the kidneys, you may be able to decrease your cravings for cigarettes by drinking a lot of water—at least six to eight glasses per day.
- Begin a fitness plan. In addition to helping you lose weight, exercise relieves tension and takes your mind off smoking.
- Chew on this. If you miss having something in your mouth, munch on carrots, celery, apples or sugar-free gum.
- Change your habits. If you always light up after a meal, don't linger at the table after you've finished eating. If you usually have a cigarette with a cup of coffee, switch to tea or soda.
- Reward yourself. Calculate the money you're saving by not buying cigarettes and use that money to buy something you've always wanted.
November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month. For more information on lung health or to schedule an appointment at Valley’s Lung Cancer Center, please call 201-634- 5538.