The single greatest thing most smokers can do to improve their health is to quit smoking. Millions have done it, and so can you—even if you have tried before. Each time you quit, you learn more about what helps or hinders you. This boosts your chances of success next time. Two important factors to include are a solid plan and lots of support.
No doubt you already know that smoking affects both your body and mind. Because you have heart disease, it's especially important to quit. You'll notice positive effects almost immediately.
Besides the physical addiction to nicotine, smoking has a psychological hold, too. The habit is probably closely linked with your daily routine, social life, and emotions. To quit, you have to go through physical withdrawal and also change your habits. Line up friends, family, and coworkers to support you. This can make a big difference if you’re tempted to give in to the urge to smoke.
Most people do best using a combination of methods—medicine to curb symptoms, a behavior-change program, and support from others. Here’s how to start:
Decide to give up smoking for good. List all your reasons, such as improving your health or setting a good example for your children.
Choose a quit date within the next month. Give yourself enough time to put a plan in place but not so long that you can talk yourself out of quitting. Mark the date on the calendar and tell others.
Review what worked or didn’t in previous attempts to quit. Then decide on your plan.
To fight off the urge to smoke, consider nicotine-replacement therapy (NRT). It provides nicotine without the other hazards of smoking and can reduce symptoms of withdrawal. NRT comes in many forms: gums, lozenges, patches, nasal sprays, and inhalers. Some types are available over the counter and others by prescription.
The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality's latest Clinical Practice Guidelines on Smoking Cessation recommend NRT for all smokers except pregnant women and people with heart or circulatory diseases. But some research results show that NRT can be safe for those with cardiovascular disease with a health care provider’s monitoring. Check with your health care provider before starting NRT.
Two non-NRT drugs, bupropion and varenicline, can also help reduce withdrawal symptoms. Ask your health care provider about these.
Make it through the day
Starting on your quit date, don’t smoke at all. Throw out cigarettes and ashtrays. Avoid smoking situations and change your routine. If you have the urge to smoke, try these strategies:
Breathe deeply, filling your lungs with clean air, and remind yourself why you want to quit.
Wait at least 10 minutes and reconsider. This may be long enough for a strong urge to pass.
Occupy your mouth: Chew sugarless gum, raw vegetables, or sunflower seeds or suck on hard candy.
Reduce stress. Exercise, explore hobbies, or use spiritual practices, such as meditation.
Maintain your success
The difference between a minor slip and a relapse is up to you. Don’t get discouraged and use a slip as an excuse to return to your old ways. Figure out what challenged you, as well as what has worked. Renew your resolve, add another method or technique, and move forward. You have the power to see it through.