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Great American Smokeout: your journey toward a tobacco-free life

Last Modified: November 21, 2019

Safety & Prevention, Family Medicine, Heart Health

great amercian smokeout

Smoking is a mental and physical addiction that plagues more than 40 million Americans, making tobacco use the single largest preventable cause of disease and early death in the United States. That is why today, November 21, is designated as the American Cancer Society’s (ACS) Great American Smokeout®. With insights from Michael Cheezum, MD, PPG – Cardiology, we take a look at why the event is so important, the benefits of quitting, how smoking cessation affects the body and ways of assessing your risk factors.

What is the Great American Smokeout?

The Great American Smokeout is an annual intervention event held on the third Thursday of November. Thousands of people, across the country, are encouraged to take an important step. They are challenged to stop smoking for at least 24 hours in hopes that their decision not to smoke will be permanent. The day itself is a collective effort and starting point to a larger journey toward a smoke-free life.

Why is it important and what are the benefits of participating?

Smoking is responsible for 1 in 5 deaths in our country and more than 16 million Americans live with a smoking-related disease. Fortunately, this doesn’t have to be the standard. When you make the choice to stop smoking, you can begin to reverse the effects tobacco has on your body!

Smoking cessation improves your health immediately by not only boosting the quality of your life but also prolonging the length of it. Your breathing begins to normalize and your body begins to heal. By quitting, you are also halting the damaging effects of tobacco on your appearance, like the premature wrinkling of your skin, the yellowing of your fingernails and your oral health, including gum disease and tooth loss. You might also notice that food starts to taste better, your breath, hair and clothes will smell nicer, and simple activities won’t leave you feeling breathless.

Not to mention the savings you will accrue from quitting. The direct cost of smoking, plus the indirect cost of healthcare connected to smoking related diseases is astronomical. Your body and your wallet will thank you.

What is the speed of recovery when a smoker decides to quit?

Knowing all the benefits of smoking cessation is not enough. It’s also important to remember that quitting is not a quick fix. It will take time for your entire body to heal from the direct inflammation and cellular damage that smoking can cause. The ACS’s general timeline shows how your body reacts the minute you quit smoking and what you can expect as you begin the recovery process:

  • 20 minutes after quitting = Your heart rate and blood pressure drop.
  • 12 hours after quitting = The carbon monoxide in your blood drops to normal.
  • 2 weeks to 3 months after quitting = Your circulation improves and your lung function increases.
  • 1-9 months after quitting = Coughing and shortness of breath decrease. Tiny hair-like structures that move mucus out of the lungs (called cilia) start to regain normal function, increasing their ability to handle mucus, clean the lungs and reduce the risk of infection.
  • 1 year after quitting = The excess risk of coronary heart disease is half that of someone who still smokes and your risk for heart attack drops dramatically.
  • 5 years after quitting = Your risk of cancers of the mouth, throat, esophagus, and bladder are cut in half. Your risk for cervical cancer falls to that of a non-smoker. Your risk for stroke can fall to that of a non-smoker after 2-5 years.
  • 10 years after quitting = Your risk of dying from lung cancer is about half that of a person who is still smoking. Your risk of larynx cancer (voice box) and pancreas decreases.
  • 15 years after quitting = Your risk of coronary heart disease is that of a non-smoker’s.
Assessing your risk

Smoking affects the entire body, including major organs like the heart and lungs, and is a major cause of cardiovascular disease (CVD). Because people who smoke have more plaque than those who don’t, they are at greater risk. There is a test patients can do to identify their risk for heart disease while looking at their plaque burden – a HeartSmart CT Scan.

What is a HeartSmart CT Scan?

A HeartSmart CT Scan is a simple, 15-minute, no prep, non-invasive scan that can detect coronary artery disease in its early stages. The scan takes a stop-motion picture of your heart and coronary arteries. The image helps detect any calcified or hardened plaque buildup in the arterial walls, which can be early warning signs of heart disease. The scan is used to identify cardiac issues before they develop into something more severe, like a heart attack.

Who should get a heart screening?

Speaking with your physician about a HeartSmart CT Scan as part of your overall health program is always a good idea, but if you are a smoker or have several of the following risk factors, you should consider scheduling a HeartSmart CT Scan:

  • Age 40-plus (men)
  • Age 45-plus (women)
  • Family history of heart disease
  • High cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Excess weight
  • Tobacco use
  • Diabetes
  • Stressful lifestyle
  • Inactive lifestyle
Scheduling a HeartSmart CT Scan

A HeartSmart CT Scan is available without a physician’s referral but be sure to check with your insurance company for possible reimbursement opportunities. At Parkview, the cost of a HeartSmart CT Scan is only $50 and is offered in multiple locations. To schedule an appointment, call 260-266-7500.

When is the best time to start your journey?

Now! It’s never too late to stop using tobacco products. As you find your way, keep in mind that different people quit smoking in different ways, but no matter what approach you choose, the Great American Smokeout is the perfect occasion to take the first step. Quitting smoking isn’t easy, but with a plan and a little time, you can start your journey toward a healthier, smoke-free life.

Helpful resources for a successful smokeout:

Parkview Smoking Cessation classes

American Cancer Society

Quit Now Indiana

Be Tobacco-Free


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