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Want to Stop Smoking?

Cigarette smoking kills 307,000 people in the United States each year. Lung cancer and emphysema are the best known and most miserable outcomes. However, accelerated development of atherosclerosis is numerically the most important problem resulting from smoking. This results in heart attacks and strokes, angina pectoris (heart pains), intermittent claudication (leg pains), and many other problems. Pipe and cigar smoking does not have the pulmonary (lung) consequences that cigarette smoking does, but can lead to cancer of the lips, tongue and esophagus. Nicotine in any form has the same bad effects on the small blood vessels and thus on development of atherosclerosis.

It is never too late to quit. Only two years after stopping cigarette smoking, your risk of heart attack return to average. It has actually decreased substantially the very next week! Most people have plenty of time to get major health benefits. After 10 years, your risk to for lung cancer is back to nearly normal. After nearly two years, there is a decrease in lung cancer risk by perhaps one-third. The development of emphysema is arrested for many people when they stop smoking, although this condition does not reverse. 

Moreover, you will notice at once that your environment has become more friendly when you are not a smoker. A lot of the daily hassles that impair the quality of your life go away when you stop offending others by this habit.

Here are some tips for quitting: decide firmly that you really want to do it. You need to believe that you can do it. Set a date on which you will stop smoking. Announce this date to your friends. When the day comes, stop. You can expect that the physical addiction to nicotine may make you nervous and irritable for a period of about 48 hours. After that, there is no further physical addiction. There is, of course psychological craving that sometimes lasts a very long period of time. Often, however it is quite short. Reward yourself every week or so and buy something nice with what would have been cigarette money. Combine your stop-smoking program with an increase in your exercise program. The two changes fit together naturally. Exercise will take your mind off the smoking change, and it will decrease the tendency to gain weight in he early weeks after stopping smoking; this is the only negative consequence of stopping. The immediate rewards include better-tasting food, truer friends, less cough, better stamina, more money, fewer holes in your clothes, and membership in a larger world.

Many health educators are skeptical about cutting down slowly and stress that you need to stop completely. I don’t think this is always true. For some people, rationing is a good way to get their smoking down to a much lower level and then at that point it may be easier to stop entirely. For example, the simple decision not to smoke in public can help your health and decrease your hassles. To cut down, only keep in cigarette pack those cigarettes that you are going to allow yourself that day. Smoke the cigarettes half way down before extinguishing them.

There are many good stop-smoking courses being offered through the American Cancer Society, the American Lung Association, or your local hospital. Most people actually don’t need these, but if you do, they can help you be successful. Try by yourself first. Then, if you still need help, there is a lot of it around.

Nicotine chewing gum can help some people quit, and your doctor can give you a prescription and advice. Don’t plan on this as a long term solution because nicotine is the gum is just as bad for your arteries as the nicotine in cigarette.

An example of your ability to make your own choices is afforded by the challenge to stop smoking. If you are trapped by your addictions, even the lesser ones, you can’t make your own choices. Victory over smoking improves your mental health, in part because this is a difficult victory. It can open the door to success in other areas.

Cough Syrups

This is a confusing area, with many products. To simplify, consider only two major categories of cough medication: “expectorants” and “cough suppressants.” The expectorants are usually preferable because they liquefy the secretions and allow the body’s defenses to get rid of the material. Cough suppressants should be avoided if the cough is bringing up any material or if there is lot of mucus. In the late stages of cough, when it is dry and hacking, compounds containing a suppressant may be useful. We prefer compounds that do not contain an antihistamine because the drying effect on the mucus can harm as much as help.

Reading the Labels

Glyceryl guaiacolate, potassium iodide, and several other frequently used chemicals cause an expectorant action. Cough-suppressant action comes principally from narcotics, such as codeine. Over-the-counter cough suppressants cannot contain codeine. They often contain dextromethrophan hydrobromide, which is not a narcotic but is a close chemical relative. Many commercial mixtures contain a little of everything and may have the some of the ingredients of the cold compounds as well.

Avoiding Non-fatal Disease

More health problems come from non-fatal diseases than from fatal ones. Prevention of these problems is critical o your ability to live as well and as long as you can. You probably noticed that even potentially fatal diseases (like atherosclerosis) cause most of their problems by non-fatal complications such as angina, pectoris, non-fatal heart attacks, non-fatal strokes, intermittent claudication, and congestive heart failure. Accident cause many more sever and lasting disabilities than they do deaths.

There are many additional disease conditions that are seldom, if ever, fatal but that cause immense pain and suffering. For example, osteoarthritis and related syndromes cause nearly one-half of the physical symptoms reported by older individuals. Little attention has been paid to prevention of these diseases. Yet, prevention is possible to nearly the same degree as with the fatal diseases. Secondary prevention of these conditions, after symptoms have begun, is often more difficult, preventive measure won’t always work completely, but the markedly improve your predicted chances. They will nearly always help to some extent. By working to prevent problems from these conditions, you can strikingly improve symptom levels and the quality of life.

Hearing Loss

The delicate hearing apparatus in the middle ear (and the eardrum itself) becomes stiffer with age, causing gradual loss of hearing in almost all individuals, with loss of high-tone hearing occurring before loss of lower tone hearing. Loss of hearing obviously makes communication makes more difficult. Equally important, hearing loss decreases the input that you need to make your memory and thinking work well. Many problems that are written of as “senility” turn out only to be problems with hearing loss.


There is no known way to prevent the occurrence of hearing loss (although once in a while the problem is only wax buildup in the ear canals). However, hearing aids and devices, which restore hearing to essentially normal levels, are readily available. Your task is to be sensitive to any loss of hearing and to take up the corrective measures early. Otherwise, a whole series of unnecessary problems of communication and apparent loss of intellect can result, and the quality of your life will be less than it should be.