Your health is immediately improved when you quit smoking and these improvements continue for many years.

Today’s post is from Brigham and Women’s Hospital thoracic (chest) radiologist Francine Jacobson, MD, MPH, who specializes in lung cancer prevention and screening. Dr. Jacobson serves as a lung health resource for both her patients and their physicians.

Today marks the 36th annual Great American Smokeout, held annually in the US on the third Thursday in November. Public support for the willpower and the example set by not smoking, even for just one day, is a powerful accomplishment with which to embark on the holiday season – opened by the counting of blessings and overeating on Thanksgiving and closed by resolutions for self-improvement in the New Year.

Your health is immediately improved when you quit smoking and these improvements continue for many years. Visit the American Cancer Society’s website for a compelling timeline of the numerous health benefits to your heart, lungs, and other organs.

The Great American Smokeout provides a focused and attainable first step in the journey toward quitting for good. From that important starting point, a multi-faceted approach can increase your success as well as your overall health. Your physician can support your efforts with medications to decrease cravings and deal with nicotine dependence. Finding alternative activities and methods to deal with stress can help you to overcome barriers to quitting, such as weight gain, and maximize the improvement in your health in 2014 and beyond.  Here are a few things to try:

  • Work with a dietitian and personal trainer to help you avoid weight gain while in the process of quitting.
  • Use arts and crafts as a way to keep your hands busy.
  • Find a friend to provide encouragement and keep you accountable.

What if you’re not ready to quit outright? One of the best tips ever given to me by a former smoker is to start by giving up your favorite cigarette. By switching to a cigarette you have less attachment to, it will be easier to let go and kick the habit for good.

Congratulations to all who quit smoking today!

* Smoking cessation should be adopted as a primary method for lung cancer prevention. Early detection with a low-dose CT (computed tomography) scan, however, is an important secondary prevention method for both smokers and former smokers. These and any other lung cancer prevention approaches should be discussed with the patient’s primary care doctor.

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