Managing Cholesterol By Quitting Smoking

Both smoking and high cholesterol are bad for your heart and cardiovascular system. In addition to lung cancer, smoking contributes to the build-up of fatty deposits in your arteries and increases your risk of heart attack.

Like smoking, high cholesterol damages your cardiovascular system. Are smoking and cholesterol linked? Research suggests that smoking, cholesterol levels and heart health are closely intertwined.

The Connection Between Heart Disease, Smoking and Cholesterol Levels

Research indicates that quitting smoking increases your HDL, or “good” cholesterol. A study published in “American Heart Journal” (2011) found that HDL cholesterol in participants who quit smoking rose by an average of 5 percent over the subsequent year. Study participants who quit smoking also gained weight, so the benefit for those who manage not to gain when they quit might be even greater.

Quitting smoking comes with other heart health benefits. Within one day of your last cigarette, your risk of a heart attack falls. Fifteen years after you quit, your risk of heart disease is the same as that of a person who never smoked, according to the Mayo Clinic (2010).

Quitting Smoking: Steps to Take

Quitting smoking can be broken down into three phases: preparing to quit, quitting and staying quit. The following tips may help you quit smoking:

  • Preparing to Quit: When preparing to quit, it helps to be organized and have allies as you try to quit smoking. First, set a “quit date.” Tell your family and friends about it so they can support you during that time. Understand that quitting will be difficult and talk to your doctor about what you can do to overcome the physical and psychological challenges. The day before you quit, remove all cigarette paraphernalia, such as lighters and ash trays, from your living space.
  • When You Quit: Use your support network when you feel tempted to smoke. Call a friend or family member who can remind you of your motivation to quit. If the physical withdrawal symptoms are unpleasant, consider using a nicotine supplement product, such as gum, lozenges or inhalers. Lastly, change your routine, stay busy and, most importantly, stay away from the activities or situations that you most associate with smoking.
  • Remaining a Non-Smoker: Though it becomes much easier to resist over time, the temptation to smoke may never completely go away, so keep your guard up. Set milestones in terms of days, weeks, months and years and reward yourself at those times for remaining a non-smoker.

Resources

Cleveland Clinic. (2011). Smoking and heart disease.Retrieved January 13, 2011, from http://my.clevelandclinic.org/heart/prevention/smoking/smoking_hrtds.aspx

Gepner, A., Piper, M., Johnson, H., Fiore, M., Baker, T., Stein, J. (2011). Effects of smoking and smoking cessation on lipids and lipoproteins: Outcomes from http://www.ahjonline.com/article/S0002-8703%2810%2900892-6/abstract

Mayo Clinic Staff. (2010). High cholesterol. Retrieved January 11, 2011, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/high-blood-cholesterol/DS00178

Smokefree.gov website. (2010). Quit guide.Retrieved January 11, 2011, from http://www.smokefree.gov/quit-guide.aspx

Medline Plus. (2010). Quitting smoking improves cholesterol. Retrieved January 11, 2011, from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/news/fullstory_106994.html