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Start the New Year smoke-free

(NC) If giving up cigarettes is at the top of your resolution list this year, it will be an achievement that keeps on giving. Quitting puts more money in your pocket, helps you sleep better, and most importantly, it will improve your health. The longer people spend smoking the more damage it does to their lungs.

One common result of prolonged smoking is chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Over time, smoking can cause a permanent narrowing of the lung airways to develop, along with symptoms that may include shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing and coughing up phlegm. Smoking can cause COPD symptoms to worsen. When symptoms get worse or a new, persistent symptom comes on, it could be the beginning of a lung attack, which can potentially lead to hospitalization, restricted mobility and can increase the risk of death. In this case, discuss your worsening symptoms with your doctor and also ask if your medication dosages need an adjustment.

There are many effective smoking cessation options – everything from medication assistance to support groups. Regardless of how long you've been smoking, take a look at these tips to help you butt out:

• Mark your calendar: Don't wait for a “right time” to quit. Just pick a “quit day” in the near future and put it in your calendar. Also share your plan with friends and family to help you stick to it and get their support.

• Turn to exercise: Increasing physical activity can help with the transition period as you try to quit. It can take your mind off cravings and help with your mood and energy level. If you are new to exercise, remember to start off slowly.

• Relapses don't mean failure: Quitting smoking can often be an ongoing process and it gets easier with practice. If you slip up, start again. This is particularly important for those with COPD since quitting smoking can help slow down the progression of COPD symptoms.

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