You know the facts. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, cigarette smoking and exposure to tobacco smoke cause more than 440,000 premature deaths each year. Smoking is a leading cause of many different types of cancer and death from cancer. Smoking also causes heart disease, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma and cataracts, and has been proven to make other debilitating health conditions worse.
I knew that smoking was bad for my health when I had the habit, but regardless of knowing all the sobering statistics, I still had to come to the conclusion to quit in my own time. No, it wasn't easy. The addiction to nicotine has been said to be as powerful as the addiction produced by heroin and cocaine, and I believe it. Quitting meant making several lifestyle changes and testing my will, but I have never regretted the effort.
If you are thinking about or trying to quit smoking, I encourage you to make that big step.
Expect some bumps along the way. One of the biggest obstacles is tobacco cravings. Here's what I like to call the 4Ds that can help you when the urge to smoke is strong.
Delay: Most tobacco cravings last five to 10 minutes at the most. Tell yourself you can make it for that long. Repeat this trick as often as needed.
Drink water: Water — nature's best low-calorie drink — helps to detoxify your body of nicotine and other harmful chemicals contained in tobacco smoke. Stay away from alcohol and caffeinated beverages during this time since those may be triggers to smoke. You could also munch on apples, celery and carrot sticks, low-calorie snacks that keep you busy chewing.
Distract yourself: Go for a walk, turn on the TV, work a puzzle or call a friend. Remember, most cravings only last a few minutes so find something to do during that time period to get your mind off smoking.
Deep breathing: It's stressful to give up a long-established habit. Breathe deeply and try to relax. Gently remind yourself about your determination to be free of this unhealthy addiction.
Trying something to beat the urge is always better than doing nothing. Each time you resist a craving, you are one step closer to being totally tobacco-free for good.
Martha King, a registered nurse and health educator, leads smoking cessation classes at Baptist Health HealthwoRx Fitness & Wellness Center in Lexington Green Mall.