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Texans Wanting To Quit Smoking Have Reason To Hope

Aug 18, 2007
When it comes to smoking, there's little doubt as to the health effects. Smoking is unhealthy.

The real issue for people in Texas, and particularly in the urban areas of Dallas, Houston and Austin, is how to quit and keep from starting again.

Connected to the issue are concerns related to smoking, among them the issue of weight gain that sometimes occurs when people quit.

Although not everyone will gain weight, there is a physical reason for some gaining (on average that amount is only about 10 pounds, according to some experts). In reality, it's the nicotine contained in cigarette smoke that was responsible for someone keeping their weight low. When they quit, the nicotine (which is harmful) leaves, freeing up the body to return to the weight it would have been had a person never smoked.

Another option for avoiding the possibility of weight gain is to become more physically active and improve eating habits before someone stops smoking. Physical activity will help avoid weight gain because of its inherent ability to increase the number of calories being used by the human body. At the same time, healthy eating choices play a part in controlling the amount of calories a person consumes.

One study showed women who stopped smoking and added 45 minutes of walking a day to their lifestyle gained fewer than three pounds. Exercise is also a way to increase a person's energy, to promote self-confidence and relieve the stress and depression caused by the lack of nicotine, all while improving a person's overall health.

Those who think they have "no time" for exercise might consider how they're spending the time they do have. If it's watching television or playing video games, some of those hours could be put to better use taking a walk or going to the gym, perhaps bringing along a music player if the exercise itself isn't enough of a diversion.

When it comes to eating healthy, a gradual change can go a long way toward developing a healthier lifestyle.

Choosing a variety of foods is a good way to start, with choices including grain products, vegetables and fruits. Lean and low-fat foods, along with low-calorie beverages, are good choices, as are low-fat dairy products, lean meats, fish, poultry and dry beans, all of which give someone the nutrients they need without the extra calories and fats. Those with an interest in improving health should also consider avoiding foods that are high in fat and sugars and low in nutrients.

Even with the emphasis on healthy choices when it comes to food, weight gain is hardly a reason for not quitting smoking.

Indeed, the health risks of smoking are far greater than the risks of gaining a modest amount of weight. Even smokers who have health insurance are subject to the effects of smoking, which include increased heart rate and the exposure of some 4,000 chemicals, 40 of which are known to cause cancer.

Smokers are much more likely to get lung cancer, men 22 times more likely; women at least 12 times more than someone who does not smoke. For smokers, the likelihood of having a heart attack is double that of nonsmokers.

The good news is that the human body has the capability of healing from the effects of smoking once a smoker quits. Even within twelve hours of taking a last cigarette, the body begins its repairing process, starting with the lungs and heart. Over time, breathing becomes easier and the classic smoker's cough begins to go away.

In a world that's becoming increasingly environmentally conscious, people who quit smoking are making a contribution to cleaner air, especially important for children who are at risk for illnesses because they breathe cigarette smoke coming from others.

Once someone quits smoking, there are strategies to consider that improve the likelihood of remaining smoke-free.

One is to learn how to reduce cravings for both cigarettes and food. One key point is that a craving typically lasts only about five minutes. When those cravings do kick in, try to replace smoking with other activities such as snacking on fruit or chewing sugarless gum as a way to satisfy any sweet cravings.

If keeping your hands busy is an issue, replace the action of holding cigarettes with activities such as doodling, working puzzles, knitting, twirling a straw or holding a pen or pencil.

People who quit smoking can maximize the chance of maintaining their healthier lifestyle by drinking less caffeine (which can make nicotine withdrawal even harder to deal with), getting enough sleep, reducing tension (where exercise can also help), and making sure they get the support and encouragement they need (from friends or groups dedicated to helping people quit smoking).

Finally, If nicotine withdrawal becomes an issue, a discussion with a physician may be in order. Some nicotine replacement products, once available only by prescription, are now available over the counter.

The best way to avoid the harmful effects of tobacco is to not start smoking. But even if you have started and want to quit, there's every chance of a healthier future.
About the Author
Pat Carpenter writes for Precedent Insurance Company. Precedent puts a new spin on health insurance. Learn more at Precedent.com
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