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Quit Smoking for a Healthy Mind and Body

The minute you put out your last cigarette, your lungs and heart start to heal. But there's another benefit you might not expect: A soaring mood.

Researchers recently followed about 4,800 smokers. Over three years, about one in five quit. Those who did reduced their rates of depression, anxiety, alcohol problems and drug abuse compared with those who continued to light up.

"Smoking is the leading cause of premature, preventable death in the United States," said David Horvick, MD, a radiation oncologist on staff at Lourdes Medical Center of Burlington County. "Smoking shaves 14 years off the average smoker's life. Much of that is attributable to lung cancer, but smoking harms nearly every organ in the body. So the sooner you can quit, the better for your overall health."

Know the Risk
Cigarettes contain 4,000 chemicals. Of these substances, at least 250 are known to be harmful to human health, including carbon monoxide, ammonia and formaldehyde.

Smoking has been linked to heart disease, stroke and lung cancer, as well as cancers of the kidneys, bladder, throat and cervix. Smoking causes one in five American deaths.

Seek Stress Relief
The study, published in the journal Psychological Medicine, offers hope for those who hope to kick the habit. It's normal to feel irritable, restless, or a little blue for about a week or two after quitting. But these and other findings suggest that—in the long run—you'll be happier and mentally healthier smoke-free.

Many people smoke to cope with stress or depression. Yet nicotine has the opposite effect, slowing the transmission of signals between nerve cells and dampening positive feelings.

"Try other ways to relieve your stress. Exercise, meditate, get a massage, listen to music or hang out with friends. Find something you enjoy," said Dr. Horvick.

If these don't work, talk with your doctor about alternate forms of treatment. Counseling, antidepressants or a combination of the two can safely lift you out of the dumps.

Quit Today
There's no better time than today to quit. Ask your doctor for advice and support. Dr. Horvick recommends these strategies to help you break the tobacco habit:

  • Set a quit date and ask your family and friends for support.
  • Ask a motivated friend to quit with you.
  • Nicotine gum and patches are over-the-counter drugs that help reduce cravings. They deliver a steady dose of nicotine throughout the day. Nicotine gum also gives smokers something to do when they feel like smoking. A prescription nasal spray and inhaler also are available.
  • Bupropion is a prescription antidepressant that has proven useful in helping people stop smoking. The drug hinders brain chemicals that play a key role in nicotine addiction.
  • Varenicline interferes with receptors in the brain that react to nicotine and create physical cravings.
  • Try hypnosis. The Lourdes Wellness Center offers hypnosis classes to help you kick the habit.
  • Mix up your habits. For example, if you're used to smoking after meals, try chewing gum or taking a walk instead. Exercise also can prevent the weight gain some people experience when they quit.
  • Avoid people and places that make you crave cigarettes.
  • New electronic cigarettes have been used by some to help quit smoking regular cigarettes. If you are considering smoking e-cigarettes, talk with your doctor first.

"Old habits are hard to break," said Dr. Horvick. "But ending an addiction to smoking is well worth the effort."

Last reviewed: July 2014

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Happenings

Quit Smoking with Hypnosis
Having trouble kicking the habit? Quit Smoking with Hypnosis at Lourdes LIttle Portion, 1049 Haddon Avenue in Collingswood, Monday, Sept 29 from 7 to 9 p.m. Learn information about smoking’s health risks, as well as general strategies to overcome challenges to quitting. A group hypnosis session is included. Cost is $45. Call 1-888-LOURDES (1-888-568-7337) to register.
Click Here for a Full Schedule of Lourdes Wellness Programs.