We all know smoking is bad for your health, but what exactly does it do and how do you quit?
A cigarette contains more than 4,000 different chemicals. The main three are nicotine, tar and carbon monoxide. The chemicals in cigarettes contribute to high cholesterol and increase the chance of blood clots whilst the nicotine increases your blood pressure. High blood pressure and high cholesterol are the two main risk factors that increase your chance of developing heart disease or stroke.
Nicotine is a highly addictive component which reaches the brain in 10–19 seconds. It causes emotional changes, including relaxation and decreased tension. However, it also increases your heart rate and blood pressure and constricts arteries meaning our bodies aren’t in fact relaxed at all.
Tar is inhaled when the smoker draws on a burning cigarette. It is a collective name for the many chemicals that form the thick, sticky residue of tobacco smoke. It is linked to heart disease, lung disease and cancer.
Carbon monoxide reduces the ability of blood to carry oxygen around the body. This puts additional strain on the heart because it has to work harder to transfer oxygen. It also makes you feel tired and lacking in energy, and can cause chest pains. Up to 15% of a smoker’s blood can be carrying carbon monoxide instead of oxygen.
Cigarette smoking damages the lining of the blood vessels, increases your blood pressure and makes your blood stickier. Recent studies have shown that changes occur to fat distribution, so smokers – especially women – tend to put more weight on around the waist than a non–smoker. All of the above increase the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Cigarette smoking also changes the structure of the lungs, which causes air to become trapped in the air sacs, impairing the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide. This is emphysema, which is a type of COPD.
How To Quit
It is not easy to quit smoking but there is help available. Ask your GP or pharmacist for information on nicotine replacement products. Many local hospitals run smoking cessation clinics and there are some GPs and local pharmacists who also provide the service.
You can contact the Health Service for their Smokefree Want 2 Stop Quit Kit on 0808 812 8008 or by visiting: www.want2stop.info/quitkit.
The want2stop website has a search page where you can find your nearest GP, Health Centre or pharmacy which offers Smoking Cessation Services. All you have to do is click here then put in the name of the city, town or village you live in. If where you live doesn’t have any services, try the name of a nearby town.
Once you have decided to quit:
- Work out your smoking habits and be ready to change your routine to avoid the triggers and situations where you smoke
- Set a date, tell family and friends and stick to it
- When you feel the urge to smoke, distract yourself
- Put the money you save in a jar so you can see it building up
- Ask your doctor or pharmacist for help and support. You are four times more likely to quit successfully if you get professional help and nicotine replacements.