Quitting smoking in a pandemic year: An extra benefit

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Since 1984 it has been celebrated in Portugal, on 17 November, the National Non-Smoking Day. The date aims, first of all, to celebrate health and to congratulate all Portuguese who decide not to smoke”, says Maria João Baptista , hospital assistant for internal medicine at Beatriz Ângelo Hospital and member of the Núcleo de Estudos de Prevenção e Risco Vascular, in an opinion article shared with the press.

It is also an opportunity to raise awareness of the risk factors associated with tobacco consumption, as well as an invitation to change for the Portuguese who smoke.

This commemorative date has a special meaning for me, not only because I am an Internist Physician dedicated to the area of prevention and vascular risk, but also because it was one of the first initiatives in which I participated in my community as a teenager.

Tobacco consumption is not only one of the most important risk factors associated with the main causes of death, but it also has a major impact on quality of life and is the first possible cause of disease to be prevented. It increases the likelihood of chronic diseases such as respiratory disease (chronic bronchitis, emphysema, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), cardiovascular disease (ischaemic heart disease, heart failure, peripheral arterial failure), brain disease (stroke, dementia), mouth disease (gingivitis, caries, change in the colour of teeth), peptic ulcer disease, decreased and lost vision, premature skin aging, osteoporosis, increased vulnerability to infection, reduced female fertility and impotence.

As is also widely known, tobacco increases the risk of developing various types of cancer such as respiratory, digestive, gynecological and urinary. In addition, smokers with SARS-CoV-2 infection are also known to carry a higher risk of progression to serious disease, a higher risk of mechanical ventilation and a higher risk of death.

But in addition to the negative consequences of smoking, the medium-term benefits of smoking cessation such as increased life expectancy and quality of life, improved cardiovascular health, increased likelihood of having healthier children, among others, should be highlighted. In the short term, there are also very positive results such as normalisation of heart rate and blood pressure after 20 minutes, normalisation of carbon monoxide levels after 8 hours and the beginning of a reduction in the risk of cardiovascular disease after 24 hours.

In order to improve their health and longevity, more and more people are trying to stop smoking. It is, however, a difficult process to achieve without professional support. The success rate is proven to be higher when there is a multidisciplinary approach involving Internal Medicine, Pneumology, General and Family Medicine, Nutrition, Psychology and Nursing, with a smoking cessation plan tailored to each person to ensure the success of the treatment.

And because we are in a year of changing habits, why not start thinking about increasing the individual and collective health of the Portuguese, making the important decision to stop smoking?

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