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Quitting Time: Prevent Diabetes, Heart Disease

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

It's well known that smoking causes cancer. But did you know that smoking may also raise your risk for type 2 diabetes? Or that it is a major factor in nearly half of heart attacks? It's never easy to stop smoking, but millions of people have quit -- and you can, too. Now might be the time to give it a try.

Cigarettes contain more than 4,000 chemicals, including ammonia and substances found in rat poison. No matter how long you've smoked, you'll be healthier just 20 minutes after you quit, as your pulse rate goes back to normal. That reduces the stress on your heart. After just three days, the nicotine leaves your body and each breath comes easier. What about financial benefits? A pack-a-day smoker saves about $150 after one month without cigarettes, more than $1,800 after one year and close to $50,000 after 25 years.

About four out of five smokers would like to quit. Are you one of them? Here are some tips to get smoke-free:

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* Make a Plan. Write down the reasons you want to stop smoking. Maybe you want to be around to see your kids graduate. Or be able to spend time with your grandchildren in the extra 10 years, on average, you'll live as a non-smoker. Then stock up on distractions -- carrots, pretzels or sugar-free gum.

* Choose your official "Quit Day." According to Dr. Ann L. Albright, President of Health Care & Education at the American Diabetes Association, "The day you quit should be during a time that you expect your life to be fairly calm so that stress won't tempt you to smoke and withdrawal symptoms won't significantly interfere with your life." Then throw away matches, lighters and ashtrays.

* Get Help. Quitting cold turkey works for some. But more succeed by blunting the discomfort of withdrawal. Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) can help. Options include the nicotine patch, gum, lozenges, inhaler or nasal spray. For some, prescription medicines such as bupropion (Zyban) or varenicline (Chantix) are more effective than NRT in reducing the craving for nicotine. Talk with your doctor about the best option for you.

* Get Support. When you're fighting the urge to smoke, don't go it alone. To speak with a counselor, call the National Network of Tobacco Cessation Quitlines at 1-800-QUITNOW ( 1-800-784-8669 ) or the National Cancer Institute's Smoking Quitline at 1-877-44U-QUIT ( 1-877-448-7848 ).

* Stay Strong. The urge to smoke lasts about four minutes. Do what you can to wait it out. Many people go back to smoking in their first week without cigarettes. Stay strong, day by day, until you're smoke-free for a full seven days. Then treat yourself with that new CD you've been wanting. "It's a good idea to plan rewards for sticking to your goal, such as going to a movie for each week you don't smoke," Dr. Albright says. After three months, the chances that you'll smoke again drop sharply. Going 90 days without a cigarette could end up giving you a longer life.