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Using Immediate and Intermediate Benefits as Motivation to Quit Smoking

Observable and measurable immediate and intermediate health benefits can be used as motivation to quit smoking and prevent relapse.

Instant benefits of quitting smoking primarily relate to blood pressure, the heart, blood stream circulation, taste and smell. After quitting smoking for 20 minutes, blood pressure decreases, heart rate drops, and blood stream circulation improves. After quitting smoking for eight hours carbon monoxide levels return to normal. After quitting smoking for 24 hours the risk of heart attack decreases and after 48 hours of not smoking the sense of taste and smell are enhanced.

The immediate benefits of quitting smoking relates primarily to blood stream circulation and the lungs. After quitting for two weeks to three months circulation continues to improve, walking becomes easier, and lung function improves.  After one to nine months shortness of breath, cough, sinus congestion and fatigue begin to improve, and after one year, the increased risk of heart attack is reduced by half.

The use of a home blood pressure monitor, preferably a digital one that measures both blood pressure and heart rate can allow you to experience the immediate gratification with respect to the positive effect of smoking cessation on blood pressure and heart rate. Although there is no resource available to consumers to allow measurement of carbon monoxide levels after eight hours or the reduction in the risk of heart attack after 24 hours, the increased sense of taste and smell can be observed.

Another measurable immediate benefit of quitting smoking for which there is a measuring tool is the level of cotinine in the urine, which is an indirect measure of the amount of nicotine in the body. A significant decrease in the cotinine level can be measured with a quantitative urine nicotine test kit within 24 hours of quitting smoking, and 4-7 days after quitting smoking the test kit should show a level consistent with a non-smoker.

Documenting the measurable and subjective immediate and intermediate benefits of quitting smoking can reinforce the mental and lifestyle changes associated with quitting and can serve as motivation if the documentation is reviewed from time to time until you reach your target quit smoking date. Periodic review of the record after your quit smoking date has been reached might help to reduce the likelihood of relapse once you have successfully quit smoking.

Although the documented measured and observed benefits can be handwritten, the ideal way of recording the positive data would be with a personal health record which will allow the creation of dated journal entries in a legible computer generated text format, which can be printed out for review and/or presentation to your doctor during office visits.

Additionally, the personal health record will allow the creation of tracking graphs. The tracking of blood pressure, weight and cotinine levels might provide significant motivation during your quit smoking efforts and might be of great value to your physician in monitoring your progress.

Victor E. Battles
December 5, 2009


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