We are women. We are strong. We run corporations. We run households. We can overcome the No. 1 preventable cause of death in the United States—smoking.
Since 1980, about three million women have died prematurely of smoking-related diseases. In 1997, about 165,000 U.S. women died of smoking-related diseases, including lung and other cancers, heart disease, stroke and chronic lung diseases, such as emphysema. Women smokers who die of a smoking-related disease lose on average 14 years of potential life. Are you a smoker? What could you do with those 14 extra years?
- Smoking is a major cause of coronary heart disease among women. Risk increases with the number of cigarettes smoked and the duration of smoking. The risk is substantially reduced within one or two years after quitting.
- Nicotine and cigarette smoke damages the walls of the blood vessels, which increases the risk for a stroke. But when a smoker quits, that damage begins to reverse. After 10 to 15 years, the risk for stroke approaches that of a woman who never smoked.
- Cigarette smoking is the major cause of lung cancer among women. About 90 percent of all lung cancer deaths among U.S. women smokers are attributable to smoking.
- In 1950, lung cancer accounted for only three percent of all cancer deaths among women; however, by 2000, it accounted for an estimated 25 percent of cancer deaths. Since 1950, lung cancer mortality rates for U.S. women have increased by an estimated 600 percent.
- Women who smoke and take birth control pills are 13 ½ times more likely to have a heart attack than women who do not smoke and take birth control pills.
- Smoking is consistently associated with an increased risk for cervical cancer and may also be one of the causes of uterine cancer.
- In 2000, about 27,000 more women died of lung cancer than breast cancer.
Most women know that the health effects of smoking are good reasons to quit but continue to smoke anyway. Quitting smoking is not an easy thing to do, but addictions can and have been broken. Your decision to quit smoking is a major one. Weigh your choices carefully and you will find that the choice to quit smoking far outweighs the choice to continue smoking. This may be the best decision you ever make for your health.
When I was smoking, I knew it was bad for my health but never dreamed that any of the health risks associated with smoking would ever happen to me. In 1982, I had a brain tumor and soon after surgery, I began smoking again. Then in 1986, I decided that I was not going to let cigarettes control my life any longer. It was time to gain my freedom back.
So how did I start? Every time I had the urge to smoke, I went for a walk. My walking program led to running. I am currently training for my sixth half-marathon, and on October 26—my 60th birthday—I am going to run a full marathon (26.2 miles). Research has shown that people who begin an exercise program and make healthy lifestyle changes have a much greater chance of lifelong success. I absolutely cannot imagine myself ever smoking another cigarette. I attribute that to the lifestyle I now live.
The first step to quitting is to prepare your mind. Believe that there is a way for you to quit. Build confidence in yourself by building a positive attitude. Begin by saying, “I can quit smoking.” Realize that you have power over that cigarette. Soon you will believe that you can quit!
Next, you need to address your concerns for quitting. Face your fears. What is it that you are holding on to that is preventing you from quitting?
Compile a list of reasons for quitting. For example,
- I want to save money.
- I want to breathe better.
- I want to see my children and grandchildren grow up.
- I don’t want to expose my loved ones to second-hand smoke.
Make the reasons specific and personal. Keep your list handy, as your reasons may change from day to day, and it will help build your motivation to quit.
Then you need to study your smoking habit. Think about each cigarette you light up. Why are you lighting up that cigarette? How are you feeling at that moment? Did you really want it, or was it just associated with what you were doing at that moment? By thinking about each cigarette you are smoking, you can build your plan to quit.
After you study your smoking habit, make a list of things you can do instead of smoking. Being prepared for every situation is the key to success.
- Keep your mind and hands busy.
- Drink lots of water and fruit juice.
- Eat fresh vegetables and fruit.
And most importantly, always remember—the urge will pass whether you smoke or not. It is all up to you; you have control over cigarettes. You can quit! TPW