By Dr. Sunny Vikrum Malhotra
February is American Heart Month – an important time to remember that while we often think of cigarette smoking as causing illnesses such as cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and emphysema, smoking has been shown to increase the risk of heart disease, too.
However, there is good news for patients with heart disease who smoke. The rate of smoking-related deaths is reduced by 36% among heart patients who stop smoking. While it seems that quitting is a logical way to prevent serious illness and death, it’s just not easy for people to do.
Why is it so difficult to stop smoking?
The reason is nicotine. This chemical compound is found in tobacco and is highly addictive. This addiction is one of the deadliest risk factors for heart disease. When people try to stop smoking, they often experience nicotine withdrawal symptoms, including:
- Depressed mood
- Irritability and frustration
- Difficulty concentrating
- Increased appetite and weight gain
- Persistent cough, chest tightness and fatigue
- Mental craving for another cigarette
The physically and emotionally addictive properties of nicotine make it hard to quit smoking. But it can be done, and millions of people can attest.
Help to quit smoking
There are many remedies available to help alleviate the effects of nicotine withdrawal. They are classified as nicotine and non-nicotine replacement therapies. Nicotine replacement therapies include the long acting nicotine patch, short acting gums, lozenges, an inhaler and nasal sprays. Non-nicotine medications include Wellbutrin and Chantix (both requiring a doctor’s prescription). It is important to discuss side effects from each of these treatments with your doctor before deciding on a comprehensive smoking cessation plan.
Also, while medications often help people successfully quit smoking, having a supportive network further improves the chances of stopping smoking over the long-term. This can include friends, family and counseling offered over the telephone and internet, or in person.
Find out more
If you have heart disease, quitting smoking is one of the most important lifestyle changes you can make to improve your health. Take the first step during American Heart Month. Speak with your cardiology team about a smoking cessation plan that is right for you. You can also call the New York State Smokers’ Quitline at 1-866-NY-QUITS (1-866-697-8487). Outside New York State, please call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669).
We can help, too
For more information, contact a doctor at AdvantageCare Physicians by visiting acpny.com or calling 1-646-680-4227. You can also get a customized Preventive Care Plan here, based on your age, gender and any known conditions you may have. Then schedule an appointment to discuss your plan with your physician.
Dr. Sunny Vikrum Malhotra is a cardiologist for AdvantageCare Physicians, one of New York’s largest physician-led multi-specialty practices serving half a million patients in 36 locations throughout New York City and Long Island. Twitter: @drsunnymalhotra