In every issue of WebMD the Magazine, we ask our experts to answer readers' questions about a wide range of topics. In our November-December 2011 issue, we asked James Beckerman, MD, WebMD's heart health expert, for tips on quitting smoking.
Q: I'm finally ready to quit smoking. Do you have any tips for making it easier?
In active tobacco users, a lack of nicotine produces a wide range of withdrawal symptoms, including any or all of the following:
Constipation or diarrhea
Falling heart rate and blood pressure
Fatigue, drowsiness, and insomnia
Increased hunger and caloric intake
Increased desire for the taste of sweets
A: We all know that being tobacco-free is essential to a healthy life. In fact, the most recent report from the Surgeon General details how any exposure to tobacco smoke is harmful. Here are some pointers for quitting:
Make it your idea. I talk about smoking cessation every day. But I can tell which way things are going to go pretty quickly by asking just one simple question: "Do you want to quit?" People who truly want to quit are generally successful. Those who don't find it more challenging.
Make it convenient. Ashtrays, matches, or lighters can all trigger your desire to smoke. When you plan your quit date, make sure that these reminders are out of the way, too.
Don't avoid medication. Understandably, many people seek a natural approach to lifestyle changes. But research data confirms: It's very hard to quit on your own. Nicotine addiction is an acquired medical condition. Talk to your doctor about smoking cessation aids. They can double your chances of quitting successfully.
Quitting isn't easy -- that's why so many people try it several times before succeeding. But with a goal in mind, smoking accessories out of sight, and the help of some medications, you can finally kick the habit.