E-Kidney | May 2012

Smoking and Your Kidneys

The National Kidney Foundation's 5 Tips to Quit Smoking

Top 5A pack a day can pack a painful punch to the kidneys. In addition to causing lung cancer and lung disease, smoking is also associated with kidney disease, kidney cancer and bladder cancer. Smoking slows the blood flow to vital organs like the kidneys, causing damage. Think of smoking as stepping on the accelerator for any disease that you may have. So if you have kidney disease, smoking can make it even worse.

Diseases that damage the kidney, such as diabetes and high blood pressure, are also worsened when you smoke. Smoking can interfere with medications used to treat high blood pressure making them less effective and uncontrolled or poorly controlled high blood pressure is a leading cause of kidney disease. Smoking also can directly result in narrowing of blood vessels that leads to hardening of the arteries. Hardening of the arteries leads to nephrosclerosis, which is a form of kidney disease.

Quitting smoking is difficult, but it is one of the most important lifestyle changes that you can make to protect your kidneys and impact your overall health. To help get you started, the National Kidney Foundation offers 5 Tips to Quit Smoking.

  1. Identify your triggers. A trigger is something that makes you want to smoke a cigarette. While triggers are different for everyone, there are some such as stress, driving, and drinking alcohol, that commonly lead people to reach for a cigarette. For many people, smoking cigarettes helps to release stress, but there are other healthier ways to de-stress. Next time you crave a cigarette, take a walk instead of lighting up. Getting some fresh air can help you clear your head and your lungs. Another trigger might be hanging out with friends who smoke. Determining what your individual triggers are can help you to break your smoking cycle.
  2. Determine if medication can help. Smoking is an addiction and there are medications available to help people quit smoking. These can come in many forms, both prescription and non-prescription. Some examples are gum, patches, and nasal spray and these medications may increase the chance that you'll be able to quit successfully. Ask your doctor if medication is right for you and which type would be best. If you speak to your healthcare provider, he or she may have additional suggestions to help you quit. Remember that you are not alone.
  3. Keep a log. Before trying to quit, keep a log for two weeks. Maintaining a smoking log is similar to keeping an eating journal to determine what your baseline eating or exercise patterns are before starting a new weight loss plan. Similarly, monitoring your current smoking habits can help shape your plan to quit. Write down the dates and times that you smoke, as well as your mood and any other activities that you were engaged in when you smoked. By monitoring your behaviors, you can see if there are any trends: do you smoke more on certain days of the week? Do you smoke more during or after certain activities? Once smoking becomes a habit, you may not even think about the actual act of smoking and your other behaviors associated with smoking. Challenge yourself to look at these tendencies. For example, if you always smoke a cigarette when you drink coffee, take note.
  4. Don't give up. Sometimes quitting takes a few tries before it sticks. On average, most ex-smokers have tried to quit 10 times before succeeding. Evaluate what worked well each time you tried to quit and what you could do differently this time. Are there certain places or times that you're more likely to smoke cigarettes? Perhaps this time you can try to avoid them when trying to quit. Connect with others who are also trying to quit and ask for help when you need it. To quit smoking successfully, it is important to surround yourself with people who support your goal. If you have a spouse who smokes, try making a pact to quit together for the health of your children, present or future.
  5. Pick a day to quit. Make it official by putting the date on your calendar. You can do it! Place written reminders around the house. Before your chosen date, throw away anything that reminds you of smoking - ashtrays, lighters, matches, spare packs of cigarettes. Stock your pantry with hard candies, gum and other healthy snacks so that you can reach for something aside from a cigarette when a craving kicks in.

Visit www.BecomeAnEX.org to find out more about quitting smoking, your triggers and other tools and resources. You'll find a free online plan that can help pave the way on your quest to quit, as well as logs to help you track your smoking patterns.