Time to Kick the Habit

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

As July 5th approaches, a Wisconsin ban on smoking in public places will go into effect. For those who smoke, this may be a great opportunity to kick the habit.

"Even if you're 65 years old, quitting smoking will still extend your life," said Liz Johnston a pulmonary care practitioner at Beloit Health System and Homecare Pharmacy. In fact, your blood pressure and pulse rate may drop within 24 hours of quitting. In two to 12 weeks, circulation may improve and lung function can increase. After a year, your risk of coronary heart disease is half that of a smoker's.

There has to be motivation from the smoker to quit adds Professional Healthcare Representative Lavina Harjani-Kuzuhara, who recently presented at Beloit Health System.

"The smoker must want the help. If you are thinking of quitting, try to fill out a self-assessment of your smoking habits and consult your doctor on what help-aids are available," said Johnston. "It's about your life. You have to want to quit."

Some helpful ways to quit smoking include setting a quit date and building up a social support system. Learn how to relax and control your weight; Low-fat snacks, fruits and vegetables are all healthy eating decisions. Find activities to keep yourself from smoking when you feel the urge. Swimming, jogging and even brisk walking can help deter you from having a cigarette.

There are also a number of prescription aids available for those who are in need of assistance.

Pfizer, one company that offers prescription help, has a variety of medications that may help smokers. They even have a patient assistance program that allows those who have lost their job to continue taking their prescription if they are unemployed and without coverage. If you have been taking a smoking cessation medication for at least three months and you lose your job, Pfizer will pay for your medicine. Many people experience nicotine withdrawals when attempting to quit. Nicotine reaches a smoker's brain in approximately 10-20 seconds, causing a chemical called dopamine to release. Over time, you can become addicted to this feeling of pleasure that is caused by the dopamine.

Common signs of a nicotine withdrawal include depression, insomnia, anxiety, irritability, increased appetite and weight gain.

One way to help fight these withdrawals is through yoga and breathing exercises.

"Breathing influences your fight or flight response when you are feeling anxious," said Barbara Cooling, a yoga instructor at NorthPointe Health and Wellness Campus in Roscoe, Ill. "Your body starts tensing and you begin to breathe heavier. To calm yourself down, inhale and then exhale longer. Everything tightens up when your body isn't getting oxygenated."

When executing breathing exercises, your mind is just as much of a factor as your lungs.

"Your mind is like that neurotic room mate who is always gossiping," Cooling laughed. "Practice these breathing exercises when you are not panicked, so they become natural."

"One of my patients has been working on these techniques and can already see a positive change," said Johnston.

The decision to quit is ultimately up to the smoker, but it is never too late.

For additional help, contact the American Lung Association Lung Helpline (1-800-LUNG-USA). The Helpline has helped many smokers quit with their 24-hour assistance. If you would like to participate in Beloit Health System's Better Breathing support group, please call Liz at 608-290-4516.

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