by Kimberly Allen, RN
Smokers now have another reason to consider quitting, as if there weren’t enough already. A recent study indicates that smoking along with other risk factors including high blood pressure has been associated with decreased brain function. Smoking was clearly linked with diminished cognitive function in adults over 50 years of age.
With the New Year approaching many are thinking about New Year resolutions. Quitting smoking has always been one of the most common resolutions people make and with the continually mounting evidence about how bad smoking is for you maybe you have decided this is the year you’re going to quit. there are many reasons to quit, but one of the best reasons is that according to the US surgeon general quitting smoking is the single most important step smokers can take to improve the length and quality of their lives. That said quitting smoking is not as easy for some people, while others are able to simply quit. Mark Twain once said “Quitting is easy. I’ve done it a thousand times”. It’s not the quitting that’s hard it’s the staying quit that’s hard. So why is it so hard to stay quit? well, the simple answer is nicotine. Nicotine is a drug that is just as addictive as cocaine or heroine and it’s found naturally in tobacco. Nicotine can cause both physical and emotional addiction. In fact nicotine reaches your brain faster than other drugs like heroine which is injected into the bloodstream because when you inhale the nicotine it’s absorbed into the bloodstream quickly and is then transported in the “freshly oxygenated” blood to the rest of your body. That’s why nicotine affevts so many areas of your body including the blood vessels and heart. The nicotine is inhaled and goes directly from your lungs to your heart to be pumped out along with the “freshly oxygenated” blood through your arteries delivering oxygen throughout your body. Nicotine can also affet your metabolism and hormones as well as be found in the brast milk of female smokers. Nicotine can also cross the placental barrier. Drs have found it in both the amniotic fluid as well as the umbilical cord of newborns.
What makes nicotine so addictive is its affects on the smoker. It distracts you from unpleasant feelings by producing pleasant ones. Which only makes you want to have another cigarette, leading to increased tolerance which then leads to increased smoking. As soon as you finish that cigarette the levels of nicotine begin to drop and as the level of nicotine drops that good feeling wears off making you want to smoke again. So when you avoid that cigarette you put off getting that good feeling back. this can lead to irritability and becomes increasingly uncomfortable as you prolong having that cigartte.
Nicotine withdrawal is the main reason people have difficulty quitting. The symptoms of nicotine withdrawal can range from irritablity and headaches to severe anxiety, and sleep disturbances including nightmares and insomnia. Many start eating to replace the cigarette and start gaining weight. Some people even experience dizziness the first couple of days after quitting. Generally the symptoms peak 2-3 days after quitting, but it can vary from person to person. The one thing you can count on is they’ll get better every day that you choose to stay smoke free.
To improve your chances of success when you decide to quit familiarize yourself with all the potential effects of withdrwal and be prepared for them. The only way to succeed is to address both the physical as well as the mental factors Understand that quitting smoking is a major behavior change and requires the same effort as other behavior changes like overeating. Don’t be afraid to include yourfriends and family, a strong support system is crucial in keeping you focused and motivated.
Kimberly Allen is a registered nurse with an AND in nursing. She has worked in ACF, LCF and psychiatric facilities, although she spent most of her career as a home health expert. She is now a regular contributor to HealthAndFitnessTalk.com, dispensing advice and knowledge about medical issues and questions. You can reach her with any comments or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.