Linda, 56, and Terri, 52, work together in the records section of their city's police department. They had also been working on getting healthier together. They both had high cholesterol and were overweight. They both smoked. But they'd been going to aerobics class and had sworn off fast food.
"Terri's heart attack scared me to death," says Linda. "I decided that this time, I'm doing the whole package. I'm quitting smoking for good. My doctor told me that quitting is one of the best things I can do for my heart."
Recipe for success
Linda talked to her doctor, read up on quitting tactics, and made a plan. She told everyone she knows about her plan to quit. "It helps keep me honest," she admits.
Linda planned ahead for moments of weakness. "I wrote out a list of things that make me crave a cigarette. Next to each one, I wrote a substitute. Like when I get in the car, I can chew gum instead of lighting up. When I'm upset, I can call a friend or go for a hike. I keep that list with me."
Linda has also found that using nicotine gum has made the cravings easier to bear. "I was a bit cynical when my doctor first suggested it," she recalls. "It seemed like a crutch. But those cravings are just too powerful without the little shot of nicotine."
Being smoke-free is Linda's long-term, lifetime goal. She has also set herself short-term goals, like "be smoke-free today" and "be smoke-free this week."
Each time she meets a goal, she rewards herself. "At first, one smoke-free day was cause for celebration," she says. "Now, I'm adding up a few goals toward a larger reward. I've saved enough would-be cigarette money that I can afford a little trip soon."
And how does it feel to be smoke-free? "It's been 16 weeks now, and I already feel so much healthier."
This story is based on information gathered from many people living with high cholesterol.
ByHealthwise Staff Primary Medical ReviewerKathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine Specialist Medical ReviewerRobert A. Kloner, MD, PhD - Cardiology Rakesh K. Pai, MD, FACC - Cardiology, Electrophysiology