If you have coronary artery disease, quitting smoking will reduce your risk of death by about 30%. It is the most important thing you can do for your health.
Research indicates proven ways to quit. Some medications help your body get used to not smoking. Plus, experts and friends can support your goal of quitting for good.
David Abrams, PhD, a psychologist at New York University, has worked with people to end their smoking habits for decades. “You can stop if you keep trying and finding the combination of things that works for you,” he says.
How smoking affects the coronary arteries
DAC “is accelerated by smoking,” says Neal Benowitz, MD, professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. Almost one in three deaths from heart disease is due to smoking or being around second-hand smoke.
Benowitz said quitting smoking is important for many reasons:
- Platelets. People with coronary artery disease have fatty materials called plaques that make it harder for blood to get through the arteries to the heart. Smoking causes these plaques to build up faster, which increases the risk of a heart attack.
- Carbon monoxide. Cigarettes bring carbon monoxide into the body. This deadly gas reduces the flow of oxygen to the heart.
- Other chemicals. Cigarette smoke carries a mixture of other toxic particles that damage cells and cause inflammation and blood clots.
- Nicotine. The nicotine from cigarettes can make your heart beat faster and harder, which increases the need for blood. At the same time, the nicotine narrows your blood vessels, so less blood can pass through. Nicotine also raises adrenaline. This can lead to heart arrhythmias.
- Bad effect on CAD processing. Smoking may outweigh the benefits of some CAD drugs.
How to quit smoking helps
The health of your whole body, including your coronary arteries, will be greatly improved if you stop smoking. “A year or two after you quit smoking, your chances of survival are 50% better,” says Benowitz.
And you can see other signs of better health in the first year:
- 12 hours after your last cigarette, the carbon monoxide in your blood drops to a non-smoker’s level.
- Your risk of a heart attack starts to decrease after just 1 day.
- After 2 days the food may start to taste better.
- At 3 months, your blood circulation improves and you will be able to exercise for longer.
- By 9 months, you should notice less coughing.
People who have had a heart attack reduce their risk of having another heart attack by 40% if they quit smoking. And 5 years after quitting, your risk of stroke will be the same as if you had never smoked.
Stop smoking with nicotine and other drugs
After you are diagnosed with coronary artery disease, your doctors can tell you the best ways to quit smoking. You are more likely to quit for good if you choose avenues that rely on research.
Your body will crave cigarettes for the first few months without cigarettes. But this desire should decrease every day. As part of the withdrawal, you may have a cough, headache, and sore throat. Hang on! These things will pass.
Going “cold turkey” can be difficult. People who try this often fail in the first 3 days because it is the worst time for withdrawal symptoms. But “every way smokers can quit is beneficial,” says Abrams. “Some people just don’t like to drag it out.”
While in hospital for coronary artery disease, doctors may put you on treatment that replaces smoking with nicotine. This includes a patch that delivers consistent nicotine. When you feel a strong urge to smoke, you can also use chewing gum and lozenges, which provide more nicotine.
Other drugs can also help, such as bupropion and varenicline. They can have side effects, so ask your doctors which method is best for you. A study of 8,000 smokers found that nicotine replacement, bupropion, and varenicline were safe for people who had heart attacks and other sudden cardiac events.
Even so, “if you have coronary artery disease and are able to quit smoking, you should probably quit nicotine at some point,” says Benowitz. Nicotine patches, gums and lozenges are not as addictive as cigarettes because they send nicotine to the brain much more slowly.
Electronic cigarettes, or “vapes,” increase nicotine levels as quickly as tobacco cigarettes. They may contain harmful substances and more research is needed on them. But Abrams says they’re much better for you than smoking.
“Up to 4 million Americans have quit smoking or switched to using electronic cigarettes,” Abrams said. “Growing science shows they work.”
Other lifestyle changes help you quit
Find activities that make you feel as good as smoking, such as exercising. “I encourage all of my patients to exercise,” says Benowitz. “Of course, it can make you less interested in smoking again and improve heart health.” Especially if you have CAD, don’t push yourself too fast. Slowly increase the exercise and listen to your body, says Benowitz.
Instead of a cigarette break, try chewing on fresh fruits and vegetables, says Abrams. Sugar-free candy and chewing gum can also reduce stress.
Some people quit smoking through meditation. “If you can’t find other ways to keep your brain happy, you’re going to have a relapse,” says Abrams.
The best plan may be to combine the above treatments and changes by working with an expert, called a “smoking cessation counselor”.
Friends can help too. “Pick people you trust, who you can share your weaknesses with, if you’re having trouble quitting,” says Abrams.
If someone you live with smokes, make quitting a joint project. “Have everyone in your house stop at the same time,” suggests Abrams.
Other ideas supported by research include calling “stop lines” such as 800-QUIT-NOW (800-784-8669) and participating in support groups with others trying to quit. .
Even hypnosis or acupuncture might be worth a try. Some studies show that they can work, perhaps because “in a few cases, some kind of placebo effect is real,” says Abrams.
Finally, keep a journal to keep track of what works and what doesn’t. Take note of situations and people that make you want to smoke. Common triggers are alcohol consumption or anything that causes strong emotions. Write down what tripped you up and how you’ll avoid it the next time around.
There is no miracle solution. Giving up is difficult. “You are not weak if you are addicted,” says Abrams. “Try, try again until you know how to quit. Never give up.
Our sincere thanks to