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Quittin’ Time: Ditching the cigarette habit may be tougher for women, but don’t give up
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It’s no secret that smoking is harmful to your health, and, like most smokers, you may have tried to quit a dozen times without success. It may make you feel better to know that research shows that women do have a more difficult time quitting cigarettes than men — and it may take several attempts — but half of all women will be successful.
Kicking the habit is no joke. A recent report shows that female smokers not only have a 25% higher risk than men of developing cardiovascular disease, but the risk increases at a faster rate with every year that a woman smokes. Researchers still don’t understand why women are more severely affected by cigarettes than men, but they theorize that it is a difference in physiology that makes women more vulnerable.

If you’re ready to quit, here are some tips to help you beat the odds and go smoke-free:

Talk to your doctor: Only about 10% of women try to get help through their doctor or a counselor, but their success rate can be three times higher than the other 90% who didn’t look for support. The lesson is that you shouldn’t go it alone: talk with a medical professional about smoking cessation techniques so that you can determine what method(s) to try and have someone monitor your progress.

• Start a smoking diary: Studies show that smoking is often an emotional response, so start keeping a record of when and why you smoke about a month before you plan to officially quit. You may notice that you are reaching for those cigarettes while at a bar for girls’ night out, when you’re hungry in the late afternoon, or after an argument with your teenager. Once you know what is triggering the craving, you can try to substitute something else, like drinking a glass of water, taking a quick walk, or eating an apple.

Focus, focus, focus: Many women smoke cigarettes as a weight-loss technique, and it is absolutely true that women gain an average of 5 to 10 pounds while quitting. But now is not the time to worry about weight — you can only focus on one issue at a time. Conquer your smoking habit first, then you can tackle the weight loss. If you’ve increased exercise as a way to combat tobacco cravings, then you are probably already well on the way toward meeting your ideal weight goal.

Check out your options: There are many techniques that can possibly help women quit smoking, from medication to acupuncture to hypnosis. However, some studies have shown that common medications like nicotine patches may not work as well for female smokers, perhaps because of hormonal fluctuations, and some women are also more prone to depression while trying to quit. Talk with your health care provider
about what different options are available, ask former smokers about what was successful for them, and be sure to find out if any smoking cessation programs or medications are covered by your health insurance.

Gain a technological advantage: A recent study has shown that supportive texting has helped smokers in their efforts to quit, by providing encouraging words and statistics to keep you on track. SmokefreeTXT, a program of the National Institutes of Health, is aimed toward teens and young adults, and the National Cancer Institute offers assistance through LiveHelp, either online or via text. Check out Smokefree Women for a great variety of quizzes, advice, and links to social media support for women on Facebook and Twitter.

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WomenHeart: The National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease is a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) patient advocacy organization with thousands of members nationwide, including women heart patients and their families, health care providers, advocates and consumers committed to helping women live longer, healthier lives. WomenHeart supports, educates and advocates on behalf of the nearly 48 million American women living with or at risk of heart disease. Our programs are made possible by donations, grants and corporate partnerships.

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WomenHeart: The National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease is a founding partner of The Heart Truth Red Dress campaign. The Heart Truth and Red Dress are trademarks of HHS.