February is American Heart Month, and experts say one of the best things you can do for your heart and overall health is to kick that smoking habit.
Smokers also have a higher risk of getting COVID-19 and possibly a more severe case, if they do. All the more reason, experts say, to call it quits.
Dr. Jim Polo, executive medical director for Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Utah says 32 million Americans smoke tobacco, and half of those have some tobacco-related disease, primarily lung cancer.
"Every year 500,000 people die as a result of smoking related disease." says Polo.
He says a few tried and true tips may help kick the smoking habit. Those include learning from personal experiences, making a plan, and turning to family and friends for support. And when it doubt, talk to your doctor.
"There are many medications that are available that are FDA approved to help you stop smoking," says Polo.
If you are looking for an alternative to smoking, Polo says vaping is not the answer. "Vaping is not an approved approach to quitting smoking. No e-cigarettes have been FDA approved as a quit smoking device."
The good news is that once you kick the habit, your health will improve immediately.
"Within minutes of not smoking, the heart rate goes down. Within one to two months of not smoking, people will notice less of a cough, and less shortness of breath. Within one to two years of quitting smoking, the risk of heart attack drops off."
Quitting smoking may be daunting, but Dr. Polo reminds us that millions have successfully stopped. In fact, here in the U.S. there are more former smokers than those who are currently lighting up.
"It’s easy to commit to quit smoking and sometimes hard to stick through. So little slip-ups will occur and that is not necessarily a sign of failure. It’s good to remember the old saying, if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Remember, anybody and everybody can quit smoking," says Polo.