By Kate Jacobson | May 22, 2020
When it comes to keeping your heart healthy, quitting smoking is key.
Nearly 34.2 million American adults reportedly smoke cigarettes, and it continues to be a leading cause of death in the U.S. But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—and AACVPR—hope to change that.
For those undergoing cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation, smoking cessation is essential. It’s why AACVPR teamed up with the CDC for the ninth year of the Tips From Former Smokers® (Tips®) where real people living with long-term health effects due to smoking discuss the importance of quitting.
“There isn’t any better place to do smoking cessation than in the cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation populations,” said Quinn Pack, MD, MSc, of the University of Massachusetts Medical School-Bayside. “It’s the most cost effective of anything we do for cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation for these patients.”
Smoking directly impacts the functions of the heart and the lungs. For those with compromised cardiac and pulmonary systems—especially those who experience some sort of large event like a heart attack—smoking can exacerbate health issues. Quitting while treating these issues greatly increases the effectiveness of treatment.
AACVPR President Ana Mola, PhD, RN, ANP-C, MAACVPR, said those entering rehabilitation programs are eager to quit smoking, but need support getting started. Consistent care helps prevent relapse, and education for both the patient and their close social network eases the desire to start smoking again.
“It’s also about their social network,” Mola said. “If someone in their household or someone they spend a lot of time with is still smoking, it’s even harder for them. It’s not just about teaching the cardiac patient, it’s about teaching their family and community too.”
It’s also important to get out the message out early—whether that’s targeting young people to dissuade them from smoking in the first place to reaching patients in the hospital immediately after they have a cardiac or pulmonary event.
“This definitely has to start when the patient comes into the emergency room,” Mola said. “And then it needs to be reinforced during hospitalization and continue out in the community. It has to be a coordinated event.”
That’s why campaigns like Tips® are important, Pack said. Having access to tools—even simple ones, like hotlines and personal stories one can relate with—can be a powerful motivator. Practitioners should consider using the Tips® models in their programs to improve the delivery of clinical interventions of tobacco use and dependence.
Especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, where many are experiencing increased social isolation, anxiety and depression.
“There will eventually be data about how this pandemic has increased mental health issues, and smoking is associated with all of those,” he said.
Both Mola and Pack said the more effort we put into getting people to stop smoking, the more lives we can save. Smoking cessation is an integral part of patient care—and they’re thankful programs like Tips® exist to give health care workers the tools to get their patients there.
“If you can get sedentary smokers who’ve just had a heart attack to turn into a physically active nonsmoker, you’ve eliminated two most common causes of preventable death in the US,” Pack said. “And, you’ll have reduced the patient’s risk for mortality by 80%.”
To learn more about AACVPR’s resource for members and their patients, visit aacvpr.org/smoking-cessation