Vascular Surgeon Estimates Millions of New Non-Smokers by January 21

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According to research, 40 to 45% of American adults make at least one New Year’s Resolution and among the top 10 year after year is the goal to quit smoking.

Some observational studies have concluded that it takes about three weeks to break a bad habit or start a good one, so vascular surgeon Carlos Rueda MD suspects that next year, on January 21 2011, there will be millions of new non-smokers.

According to Discovery Health, experts are unsure where the 21-day rule originates, but suspects it comes from a 1970’s self-help book called “Psycho-Cybernetics”. The theory is that over that time period, the brain’s neural pathways become habituated to a certain activity or pattern, making it more likely that the habit will continue.

Smoking in Images: how it effects your health negatively

But because everyone’s brain is different, and habit formation relies on other aspects such as experience and personality, 21 days may just be a guideline. Because breaking a habit is more complicated than forming a new one, smokers will have to be especially diligent in overcoming their tobacco addiction.

But other research does stress that the longer you maintain a resolution, the more likely you are to continue it long-term.

Read: Why Do Most New Year's Resolutions Fail

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First, Dr. Rueda says, smokers need to be aware of the dangers of smoking. In addition to lung cancer, “Smoking causes coronary heart disease – the leading cause of death in the United States. Persons who smoke are two to four times more likely to develop coronary heart disease than non-smokers.” The Centers for Disease Control indicates that just one to two years after quitting smoking, the risk of coronary heart disease diminishes.

He also stresses the increased risk of vascular complications such as stroke, peripheral vascular disease and abdominal aortic aneurysms.

Read: Low HDL Cholesterol Linked to Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm

The second step for smokers to overcome the habit is to also focus on the benefits of smoking cessation. Dr. Rueda lists these positive outcomes that happen almost immediately after smoking:

• A feeling of being in charge; no longer dependent on cigarettes,
• An improved sense of smell;
• More disposable income;
• Healthier-looking skin;
• Energy for activities which can counteract weight gain.

New Year’s Resolution success comes from preparation, planning, and confidence. Psychiatrist Jeffrey Kelsey offers the following tips for a successful strategy to reach and keep your goals for the coming year:

• Keep a diary or journal of your progress. Charting your success can be helpful as it helps you to recognize the positive steps you have already made.
• Plan for temptations. If you are around smokers who will likely offer you a cigarette, have a ready-made answer for the situation to make it easier to say no.
• Reward yourself for good behavior. Use the money you have saved on cigarettes to buy a favorite CD or book or other reward.

The Centers for Disease Control offers a list of many government resources available to help you quit smoking, including the website Smokefree.gov and 1-800-QUIT-NOW, a free phone-based service with educational materials and other resources.

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