|

Quit smoking

Kicking the habit can slash your risk of heart attack and stroke

Last updated: February 2013

Smoking has declined over the past 40 years, but 24 percent of adults still smoke and 20 percent of teenagers are likely to start. Smoking increases the risk of blood clots, elevates blood pressure, and damages the lungs, which makes it harder to exercise. As a result, smokers are two to four times more likely to develop heart disease, and as many as 30 percent of all coronary heart-disease deaths in the U.S. each year stem from cigarette smoking. Even exposure to secondhand smoke can damage blood vessels, potentially increasing the risk of a heart attack.

But quitting smoking drops your heart-disease risk dramatically. The longer you've quit, the lower that risk is likely to become. And it can be done: Some 50 percent of all Americans who ever smoked have managed to quit permanently—though they often need help from counseling, medication, or both to overcome it.

Start with lifestyle changes. A positive attitude is key to successful smoking-cessation efforts. So replace "shouldn'ts"—"I shouldn't smoke so much"—with affirmatives—"I will stop smoking."

Get the right treatment. Most people—particularly those who smoke a pack or more per day—need counseling, medication, or both in order to overcome it. Start by seeing a doctor who can direct you to a counselor or therapist who specializes in helping people stop smoking. Your doctor can also help you decide whether you need drug therapy, too.

Nicotine-replacement products—including over-the-counter patches, chewing gums, and lozenges, and prescription nasal sprays or inhalers—help most during the first two to three months, when the risk of relapse is highest. People who continue to experience intense cravings may need to use the products longer, but they should do so under a doctor's supervision because of the risk of addiction to the replacements themselves.

Certain other drugs can ease cravings for nicotine. Two antidepressants—bupropion (Wellbutrin SR, Zyban, and generic) and nortriptyline (Pamelor and generic)—seem to work by stimulating some of the same brain chemicals as cigarettes do. Another medication called varenicline (Chantix) provides mild nicotine-like effects while potentially blocking some of the satisfaction cigarettes provide.

But bupropion and varenicline now carry a black-box warning, the most serious caution, because of reports of increased thoughts of suicide and actual attempts in those taking the drugs, especially varenicline. Given those concerns, we think people should talk with their doctor about safer alternatives.

Heart attack calculator

Click on the image at right to use our heart-attack risk calculator. It can help you determine your risk of developing cardiovascular disease in the next 10 years. Based on your answers, we've also included recommendations to help keep you healthy.

Ratings of heart tests

Click on the image at right to see our Ratings of tests used to screen for heart disease. It can help find the tests that are best for you, based on your your age, gender, and risk level.

   

E-mail Newsletters

FREE e-mail Newsletters!
Choose from cars, safety, health, and more!
Already signed-up?
Manage your newsletters here too.

Latest From Consumer Reports

TV REVIEWS
Holiday shopping: Top 10 TV deals for Black Friday 50-inch LCD TVs for just $200 are some of the big-screen bargains to be had.
ULTIMATE GIFT IDEAS
Make our Ultimate Gift Ideas your No. 1 holiday guideVideo Take a virtual visit of Consumer Reports’ test labs and Auto Test Center.
appliance-feature
REFRIGERATOR REVIEWS
Huge Black Friday sales on large appliances Retailers are offering up to 40% discounts on some top models.
KIDS' TABLET REVIEWS
Kids and tech: Best tablet for your son or daughterVideo Some models for the younger set are loaded with grown-up features.
HOLIDAY GIFT IDEAS
Gadget Gift Finder helps you find perfect high-tech giftsVideo Our new interactive tool covers all the gadget geeks on your gift list.
SMALL CAR REVIEWS
6 automotive turkeys that no one's thankful for this year You can do a lot better than choosing these disappointing cars and gear.

Connect

and safety with
subscribers and fans

Follow us on:

Cars

Cars New Car Price Report
Find out what the dealers don't want you to know! Get dealer pricing information on a new car with the New Car Price Report.

Order Your Report

Mobile

Mobile Get Ratings on the go and compare
while you shop

Learn more