Get the support you need to quit smoking, says Dr. Ursula McGarry

 by Susan Hanna

There’s no doubt about it – quitting smoking is single most important thing you can do to improve your health. But quitting isn’t easy. Here are some smoking cessation tips from Almonte family physician Dr. Ursula McGarry.

 It’s never too late to quit – “One of the myths out there is that it’s too late to quit if you have been smoking for a number of years,” says Dr. McGarry. “But the health benefits of quitting smoking can be measured at any stage, whether you are a new smoker, have smoked for less than 10 years or have smoked for many decades.”

But quitting sooner is better – “Recent research indicates the health benefits increase for those who quit smoking before age 40,” says Dr. McGarry. “The sooner you quit the better.”

Quit even if you are an occasional smoker – “Occasional smoking can have a serious impact on the cardiovascular system,” warns Dr. McGarry. “Occasional smokers are at an increased risk of suffering a heart attack for 24 to 48 hours after smoking.”

Quit for yourself – “It is very rare for someone to successfully quit for someone else,” says Dr. McGarry.

You may have to try more than once – “The reality is that it may take multiple attempts to quit,” says Dr. McGarry. “There is no one perfect way to quit, and it takes time. The more support and knowledge you have, the more likely you are to succeed.”

Help is available – “Individual and group smoking cessation programs are available at the Ottawa Valley Family Health Team (OVFHT), from Nurse Practitioner Catherine Ramonal,” says Dr. McGarry. “Many patients may need both medication and counselling to quit. The nicotine patch, and medications such as Champix or Wellbutrin/Zyban are highly effective, because they interact with the same receptors in the brain that are activated by smoking. You also need to seek out ways to change the pleasurable behaviours or social activities you associate with smoking.”

Talk to your doctor – “Our family physicians at the OVFHT are very motivated to help you quit smoking,” says Dr. McGarry. “That’s because they see, first-hand, the negative health effects of long-term smoking.”