*File photo
*File photo

February Heart Month is here again — the perfect time to take a serious look at our heart health. 

According to the Bermuda Heart Foundation, heart disease is the leading cause of death in Bermuda. 

February also marks a time by which many people have already given up on their new year’s resolutions, like quitting smoking. 

You probably know that smoking is harmful to your lungs but did you know that it also damages your heart and blood vessels? In fact, if you smoke you are two to four times more likely to have a heart
attack or stroke.

The chemicals in the tobacco smoke you inhale can damage your arteries, reduce the amount of oxygen that your blood can carry, and raise your blood pressure so that your heart has to work harder. 

Smoking also makes your blood more likely to clot. Even if you’re a light or occasional smoker, you are damaging your heart and blood vessels as well as the organs of those around you inhaling second-hand smoke.

How to quit

You’re twice as likely to quit permanently with support rather than without support and if you use appropriate medication you are twice as likely to quit permanently. 

There are a variety of smoking cessation products both prescription and over-the-counter (OTC). While these products are intended to help you quit smoking and improve your health, it’s important to know how they work and what side effects they may cause. Read labels and talk to your pharmacist or other health care professional before using any smoking cessation products.

Nicotine replacement products

Nicotine replacement products are designed to wean your body off cigarettes. They supply you with nicotine in controlled amounts while sparing you from other chemicals found in tobacco products. Nicotine replacement products should be used for a short time to help you deal with nicotine craving and withdrawal.

OTC nicotine replacement products include skin patches such as Nicotinell, Nicorette and Niquitin CQ. 

There is also Nicorette chewing gum and Commit and Niquitin lozenges. Nicotrol is a prescription-only nicotine replacement option and is available both as a nasal spray and an oral inhaler. 

Just remember, nicotine replacement products are medicines and should be kept out of the reach of children.

Non-nicotine products

Non-nicotine options for smoking cessation include Chantix (varenicline tartrate) and Zyban (buproprion). 

Both are available in tablet form on a prescription-only basis.

Chantix acts at sites in the brain affected by nicotine. 

It provides some nicotine effects to ease withdrawal symptoms and blocks the effects of nicotine from cigarettes if users resume smoking. 

Zyban helps patients to abstain from smoking; however, the exact way it does this is unknown.

Again, as prescription medications, both drugs have the potential for side effects and carry warnings about the risk for adverse events, which is why it’s so important to talk to your doctor and pharmacist to avoid any negative reaction to the medication. Also, read the product’s patient medication guide in its entirety before using either Chantix or Zyban. 

These guides offer important information that you should discuss with your health care professional.

Envision your healthy future

We all know that kicking the habit can be difficult but it can make a huge difference. 

Within 20 minutes of snuffing out your last cigarette, your blood pressure and heart rate decline. 

By the first anniversary of your last cigarette, your risk of heart disease should be about half of a smoker’s. 

In addition to quitting smoking, a heart healthy lifestyle includes following a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight and being physically active. 

Stephanie Simons is the head pharmacist at Lindo’s Pharmacy in Devonshire. For helpful information, visit Lindo’s at www.lindos.bm.