The Great American Smokeout—Thursday, November 15: A Day to Start to Stop Smoking
Each year, the American Cancer Society holds the Great American Smokeout on the third Thursday of November. This year’s date is November 15th. Help yourself, a friend or someone in your family take the first step. Make Thursday, November 15th, a day to stop smoking for one day. Make it the day to start to stop and to keep that pledge for each day following, one day at a time, for life—for your life.
Stop and take a breath, a breath of fresh air, a breath of life. Do it for your heart. Do it for your lungs. Do it for you. Every breath you take delivers life-giving oxygen to your lungs, to your heart and to every cell of your body. When you smoke, nicotine in cigarettes increases your heart rate and your blood pressure. It causes your heart to work harder. It makes it beg for oxygen. At the same time, carbon monoxide, another ingredient in cigarette smoke, deprives red blood cells of oxygen. Every breath you take with a cigarette in your mouth causes your coronary arteries to narrow because of nicotine while concurrently causing less oxygen to be delivered to your heart muscle. That’s because carbon monoxide has priority seating on red blood cells. It deprives your heart of its primary source of fuel—oxygen.
Smoking is the number one risk factor for coronary artery disease. Did you know that if you reach for your first cigarette within 30-minutes of waking up it means you are so addicted that you are having withdrawal symptoms during your sleep? Your number one goal should therefore be to extend that 30-minutes to 31-minutes, then 35-minutes, then to an hour or longer. Try 24-hours. Take the first step. Be good to you. Spend one day not smoking. Make that day November 15th , the Great American Smokeout. Stop and think about every breath you take. Feel it. Each one is precious. When that breath is filtered through a cigarette, it is devastating, debilitating and deadly. Parents, tell your children not to start. Children, tell your parents to stop. Start with one day. Help them to prepare for the Great American Smokeout, only two days away.
Take that day for you or for a friend. Help a family member. Help someone quit or to begin to quit. Plan for it. Make it your day to start to stop. Take a breath and think about how it feels. Fill your lungs¸ your heart, every cell of your body with the breath of life. Leave behind the breath of death. Snuff it out. Leave it in the ash tray. Better yet, don’t light it. Try it for a day, one day at a time, for life—your life. And when you’ve made it through the 15th, do it again on the 16th, and the 17th . . . and every day for the rest of your life.
It doesn’t matter how addicted you are or how long you have smoked, you can stop smoking! Stay strong, stick with it and get whatever support you need. A friend of mine nearly died two months ago. She had a major heart attack that broke a hole in the wall between her ventricles. She had a broken heart. She had smoked for many years and she finally stopped the day of her heart attack. After a long, arduous surgery and on-going recovery and rehabilitation, she has vowed never to smoke again. Don’t wait for your heart attack to stop. Stop now. Begin to stop on November 15th. Even if you’ve quit before, do it again, one more time. This time may be it. If you don’t smoke but know someone who does, let them know how important they are and how important it is for them to quit, too. Emily Dickinson’s beautiful poem says it best: “If I can stop one heart from breaking, I shall not live in vain.” She may not have been referring to smoking but there are many ways to keep a heart from breaking.
For more information on the difficult task of quitting, there are many resources available. You can get help from friends, family and smoking cessation programs. There are nicotine replacements and medications such as Zyban and Chantix. Talk to your doctor and check with local hospitals. Many of them have smoking cessation programs. Call the American Cancer Society at 1-800-227-2345, the American Heart Association at 1-800-AHA-USA-1, or the American Lung Association at 1-800-LUNG-USA. Some government resources include 1-800-QUIT-NOW and Smokefree.gov.
Sources: American Cancer Society.
The Fagerstrom Test for Nicotine Addiction
Yours in fitness,
Olivia C. Rossi, RN, MSN
Certified Clinical Exercise Specialist, ACSM
Certified Personal Trainer, ACSM