It's not easy to quit smoking. In fact, many people report that it's the hardest thing they've ever done. Smoking is a relevant topic for people living with HIV, as a number of studies have found that up to half of all people with HIV are active smokers.
Most people are familiar with some of the health hazards of smoking, such as the fact that it greatly increases the risk of developing lung cancer, throat and mouth cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (e.g., emphysema and chronic bronchitis). What many people don't know, however, is how much it contributes to atherosclerosis, the fatty buildup in arteries, which in turn leads to a substantially increased risk for heart attacks and strokes. In a group of men and women, smoking nearly tripled the risk for having atherosclerosis in people ages 25 to 34. Smoking can also cause inflammation in the blood vessels and heart tissue, leading directly to heart muscle damage over time.
Quitting smoking has many rewards.
Within just a few weeks of quitting, your blood pressure will decrease, your blood will circulate more easily and your lungs will function better. Your sense of taste and smell will also improve. After one year off cigarettes, your risk of heart disease will be half that of a smoker, and after five years your risk of a stroke decreases to the same level it would have been if you never picked up cigarettes in the first place.
A few options and tips to help you successfully quit:
Investigate your options and talk with your health care provider. There are a variety of support mechanisms for quitting. Traditional options include personal support—in person and via phone or e-mail—from trained counselors and motivational groups run by local organizations and hospitals. There are also biomedical methods, such as nicotine replacement through patches, gum, lozenges and inhalers. A prescription drug that blocks the nicotine receptors in your brain is also available. All can help significantly with cravings.
Make a plan and set a quit date.
Don't give up. If you break down and have a smoke after you've quit, don't suffer defeat—just pick yourself back up again and go back to being a non-smoker.
Calculate how much money you'll save after not smoking for one year. As a reward, use this money to treat yourself to something you've been wanting.