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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

'A voice for the voiceless'
Kiley O’Brien ’25, Assistant Features Editor • July 18, 2024
Fit to be king
Lilli Dellheim '25 M.A., Special to the Hawk • July 13, 2024

Ad Hawk: Why break a perfectly good heart? Time to quit.

When someone mentions the health impact of smoking, most people immediately think of lung cancer or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). However, your heart and brain are also significantly affected by smoking. 

Carbon monoxide in smoke reduces the amount of oxygen delivered to your body and increases the amount of “bad” cholesterol. Nicotine, the addictive substance in tobacco smoke, makes the coronary arteries less flexible, lowers the ability to get oxygen to your heart and increases blood pressure. All of these changes increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. Vaping, while having fewer chemicals than tobacco smoke, still contains chemicals that impact your heart, blood vessels and lungs. 

While quitting smoking is hard work, your heart will thank you! After three years, the risk for coronary heart disease is reduced by 50%, and after 15 years, this risk is about the same as someone who has never smoked! Why would you want to break a perfectly good heart? As we finish up American Heart Month this February, here are some ways to help you break the habit.

The first step is deciding to quit and setting a quit date. We often hear about the desire to quit without assistance or “cold turkey,” though this is usually not successful. The first tool to double the chances of quitting long-term (yes, double!) is to utilize an approved medication. Several options are available over-the-counter, including nicotine patches, gum and lozenges. Primary care providers may prescribe varenicline (which has the best quit rates), bupropion (an antidepressant) or the nicotine nasal spray. Utilizing medications helps reduce cravings, allowing the person to focus on kicking the habitual behaviors. Major guidelines are not yet recommending electronic cigarettes as a safe and efficacious option to quit. 

Managing triggers also improves rates of successfully quitting. A person who is used to, for example, having a cigarette with a coffee every morning, will be cued to expect the rewarding effect of nicotine when presented with the same situation (a cup of coffee). Changing the coffee flavor, switching to tea and/or enjoying the cup of coffee in a different space can help reduce these “cue-induced” cravings.

Engaging strong support systems is important. Sharing quit plans with partners, family and friends should be encouraged. Calling 1-800-QUIT-NOW or texting QUITNOW to 333888 will connect people to free resources for quitting, including coaches and free medications.

 Jason Zupec, PharmD, is a clinical associate professor of pharmacy, and Lora Packel, Ph.D., is a professor of physical therapy and the interim associate dean of the School of Health Professions.

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