You are twice as likely to have a stroke if you smoke.
Smoking causes your arteries to fur up and makes a blood clot more likely. So stopping smoking is one of the most important things you can do to reduce your risk of stroke.
To help you stay smoke free we asked Matthew Seal, Highly Specialist Stop Smoking Advisor at Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust, for his 5 top tips to staying smoke free.
5 Top Tips from a Stop Smoking Advisor:
- Take it one day at a time - just try to go to bed having not smoked for the day.
- Set a 'not one puff' rule - it's easy to persuade yourself you are in control and 'just a little bit' won't hurt - it will!
Cope with cravings - use the 5 D's rule:
Delay - even the most intensive craving only lasts a few minutes. Remind yourself that the urge is temporary and will be gone in 3 - 5 minutes.
Deep breathing - take a few deep breathes. This will help you relax and extra oxygen will increase alertness.
Decide - think positive. It can strengthen your willpower and increase your confidence. Say to yourself: 'I chose to be a non-smoker.' Repeat this to yourself.
Drink water - Have a drink of water every time you get a craving. Not only will it take your mind off smoking, it will also help cleanse the body. Try to drink 8 glasses of water each day.
Do something else - Take a short break from whatever you are doing, go for a walk, talk to someone, do something relaxing.
Get some support from your local NHS Stop Smoking Service; there are groups, 1:1's and telephone support available, as well as a range of effective medications to use.
Treat yourself - little rewards will keep you going while you save up for the special treat at the end of the month!
There are many ways to get help with quitting.
- Self-help books provide advice and useful techniques.
- You can find free information leaflets at your local GP surgery or library.
- Your GP may be able to refer you to a stop smoking group.
- Nicotine replacement chewing gum, sprays and patches can help in the early stages of giving up (but they may not be suitable for people who have already had a stroke).
The NHS Smokefree Helpline can help you discuss the different ways you can give up. Their helpline opening hours are Monday-Friday 9am–8pm and Saturday-Sunday 11am-5pm. Call Smokefree on 0800 022 4 332.
The NHS helpline for Scotland is Smokeline, 0800 84 84 84, open seven days a week 8am-10pm. The website is www.canstopsmoking.com
Drinking too much alcohol can also increase your blood pressure.
Binge drinking (more than six units of alcohol within six hours) in particular can cause your blood pressure to increase rapidly which greatly increases the risk of a stroke.
- Don’t drink every day or exceed the recommended limits.
- Women should not drink more than two to three units of alcohol a day (if you are pregnant, you should not drink at all).
- Men should have no more than three to four units a day.
A unit of alcohol is a small glass of wine, a single measure of spirits or half a pint of weak beer or lager.
There is a lot of help and support available. Read our factsheets on smoking and alcohol for more information, tips to help you and other organisations that offer more specific support.