In the first of three healthy living Opinion pieces for January, Greg Price, manager of the Devon Stop Smoking Service, explains the short and long-term benefits of quitting smoking in 2014, and how you can get free support locally.
THE New Year is upon us and with it comes an opportunity to make healthier lifestyle choices so we can enjoy a happy 2014.
For those of you thinking about stubbing out your last cigarette, you can feel confident that this choice would provide you with more health-related benefits than any other, not to mention give you a nice cash boost during these times of financial challenges.
The benefits begin immediately, as your body starts to eliminate carbon monoxide from its system.
Within a few days these will be down to the level of a non-smoker, usually leading to improvements in blood pressure and resting heart rate.
These health benefits continue to build the longer someone can maintain a smoke-free lifestyle and ultimately lead to a reduced risk of serious ill health.
Nicotine levels will also drop quickly, and this can cause withdrawal symptoms which are often the main reason people relapse back into smoking.
Some of the more common side-effects include strong cravings, irritability, weight gain, poor concentration and feeling light-headed.
These side-effects can be reduced significantly through the use of stop smoking medication. Nicotine replacement therapy, for example, can provide the body with a controlled source of nicotine during the first two to three months of a quit attempt.
It's important to note that nicotine itself is not particularly harmful when compared to the other chemicals found in tobacco smoke. It does, however, form a strong addiction which keeps smokers going back for more.
By using medication, this addiction can be dealt with gradually, greatly improving the chances of quitting for good.
Giving up smoking is always a popular New Year's resolution but it can be a hard one to maintain.
Most smokers will not only have a physical addiction to nicotine but will also have developed strong habits associated with their cigarettes which can often lead to relapse.
It was once described as being similar to riding a bike – once you know how to, you never forget. Powerful stuff, but these habits can be broken and replaced with new ones. Sometimes all that's needed is a little help.
There is plenty of help available in North Devon and Torridge. The Devon Stop Smoking Service provides free support to anyone who wants to quit and can also help them access medication on prescription.
For more information, call 01884 836024 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Next week we take a look at weight and healthy physical activity.