Smoking makes you more likely to get high blood pressure and heart disease. Put quitting at the top of your to-do list to help lower your blood pressure. It could save your life.
The nicotine in cigarette smoke is a big part of the problem. It raises your blood pressure and heart rate, makes your arteries more narrow and hardens their walls, and also makes your blood more likely to clot. It stresses your heart and sets you up for a heart attack or stroke.
Cutting down on salt may help lower your blood pressure. And most Americans need to cut back, because they get more sodium than they should.
The American Heart Association recommends getting less than 1,500 milligrams (mg) of sodium each day. That's less than a teaspoon from all your meals and snacks.
Start with these tips:
Break the habit of automatically reaching for your salt shaker. Table salt is about 40% sodium, according to the American Heart Association. So avoid adding salt to foods...
Quitting smoking isn't easy, but as hard as it can be to kick the habit, you can do it. It will make a huge difference in your health, right down to the inside of your blood vessels. Kicking the habit is right up there with exercise, eating a healthy diet, and taking any medications that your doctor prescribes.
The bottom line: The stakes are too high to NOT quit, even if you need to quit several times before it lasts.
How to Quit Smoking
There's no single method that works for everyone. You need to prepare and get support. Here's how to start:
Pick a date to stop smoking and tell your doctor about it.
Write down your reasons for quitting. Read the list every day, before and after you quit.
Here are some other tips:
Before you quit, write down when you smoke, why you smoke, and what you are doing when you smoke. You will learn what triggers you to smoke.
Stop smoking in certain situations first (such as during your work break or after dinner).
Make a list of things you can do instead of smoking. Be ready to do something else when you want to smoke.
Ask your doctor about using nicotine gum or patches. Some people find them helpful.
Join a quit-smoking group or program. Call your local chapter of the American Lung Association.
Don't carry a lighter, matches, or cigarettes. Keep all of these smoking reminders out of sight.
If you live with someone who smokes, ask that person not to smoke around you.
Don't focus on what you are missing. Think about the better health you are gaining.
When you get the urge to smoke, take a deep breath. Hold it for 10 seconds and release it slowly. Repeat this several times until the urge to smoke is gone.
Keep your hands busy. Doodle, play with a pencil or straw, or work on a computer.
Take a walk or read a book instead of taking a cigarette break.
When you can, avoid places, people, and situations linked to smoking. Hang out with people who don't smoke, and go to places where smoking is banned.
Eat low-calorie, healthful foods (such as carrot or celery sticks, sugar-free hard candies) or chew sugar-free gum when you crave cigarettes.
Drink plenty of fluids, but limit alcoholic and caffeinated beverages. They can trigger urges to smoke.
Exercise. It will help you relax. Consider starting a fitness program before you quit.
Get support. Tell others that you're working on quitting smoking.
With your doctor, make a plan that uses over-the-counter or prescription nicotine-replacement products.