Cigarettes

The nicotine in cigarette smoke is a stimulant that elevates heart rate and blood pressure. Nicotine also causes arteries to constrict making it more difficult for blood to flow, thereby placing a greater strain on an already overworked heart.

Carbon monoxide, also present in cigarette smoke, reduces the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood. The heart must work harder to supply the body with needed oxygen.

Smoking causes changes in the blood. Platelets (blood cells needed for normal clotting) become abnormally sticky, blood becomes “thicker,” and your risk of developing blood clots increases.

Smoking also causes changes in the inner lining of the arteries, and this is a factor in the development of coronary artery disease (the build-up of fatty substances in the arteries that nourish the heart).

There are a variety of methods to quitting cigarettes. But no method will work without motivation. You already have quit if you have been admitted to the hospital. Now commit yourself to a new habit by remaining smoke-free!

There are circumstances or events which will trigger the urge to smoke such as drinking coffee, feeling edgy, watching TV, and so on. Research has shown that the most difficult place to resist the urge to smoke is in your home. The key is to learn to deal with these urges without giving in to them.

Listed below are several major coping skills to assist you in remaining smoke-free:

Review your reasons for quitting, for example, “smoking is bad for my heart,” or, “smoking makes my clothes and hair smell”. Everyone has different reasons for quitting. List them and review them when you have the urge to smoke.

Be on guard for making or finding excuses to smoke again.

Anticipate triggers and prepare in advance ways you can avoid them.

Do an activity with your hands that make smoking difficult such as gardening, meditating, knitting, or playing cards.

Put sugarless gum or a low fat snack in your mouth instead of a cigarette.

Engage in an exercise program such as walking or biking and do it regularly. This will make you feel healthy and leave you feeling less inclined to smoke.

Change some habits. If a cigarette was associated with a cup of coffee, switch to tea for a while. Instead of lighting up after a meal, get up as soon as a meal is over and wash the dishes, brush your teeth, or walk the dog.

Avoid smoking areas and smoking people.

Limit alcohol consumption. Too much alcohol may weaken your commitment. Better yet, switch to juice, soda, or mineral water.

Brush your teeth several times during the day to keep your mouth fresh and clean.

Reward yourself for not smoking. Place the money you would have spent smoking aside and reward yourself on a weekly basis for committing to remain smoke-free.

Use positive thoughts. Remind yourself how far you have come and the benefits of not smoking.

Use relaxation techniques. Deep breathing helps reduce tension and overcome the urge to smoke. Instead of a cigarette, take a long deep breath, hold it momentarily, and release it. Repeat this several times.

Seek social support. It is easier to remain committed with the encouragement and support of friends and family members.

Mid-Atlantic Surgical Associates: Cardiac, Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery and Medicine