Winter 2006
Ask The Expert: Tips to Help You Kick the Habit
Adolfo J. Luciano, MD

I know that if I stop smoking, it will help to lower my blood pressure. But it's proving even harder than I expected. Any hints to make quitting easier?

Bridgeport Hospital–affiliated cardiologist Adolfo J. Luciano, MD, replies:

Congratulations on your decision to quit smoking— a smart decision for your heart. Start by talking to your physician. Then enlist the support of your loved ones and friends, and pick a day to begin. With a support network in place, you'll be off to a good start.

Here are some additional tips:

  • Medications such as Zyban may help to reduce withdrawal symptoms.
  • Nicotine replacement therapy (patch, gum, spray, inhaler) can reduce the craving for nicotine, which is addictive. If you have allergies, however, these techniques are not advisable.

In one recent study, Zyban helped 49% of smokers quit for at least a month. In the same study, 36% of nicotine patch users were able to quit for a month. However, when both methods were used, 58% of smokers were able to remain smoke-free for over a month. (Consult your doctor before using these aids.)

  • Join a quit-smoking support group. Studies have shown that nicotine replacement therapy is most successful when used with a behavior modification program.

  • Keep your hands busy by reading, writing, working on a favorite hobby, drawing and so on.

  • Brush your teeth when you first wake up, after you eat and any time you get the craving to smoke. (This may also help you keep from snacking—a frequent problem for those who quit smoking!)

  • Give yourself a break. If you slip and have one or two cigarettes, you're not alone. Many people who have successfully quit smoking experienced a slip or two. Don't be discouraged. Instead, get back on track as a nonsmoker.

    Good luck!