#589 – If You Smoke…

An open pack of cigarettes being offered to a person., who is signalling "No," with their hand.
Image by Gundula Vogel from Pixabay

If you smoke...quit!

When I was in high school, it was considered cool to smoke. I was never cool, according to that particular measuring stick. Not that it mattered. At the time, both my parents smoked and it never sat well with me. One of the earliest chores we had was to clean out the ashtrays each morning. Ewww - gross! That particular chore reinforced the fact that I didn't care to take on that habit. (Perhaps that was the plan my mother had all along.)

In 2015, I attended Living Artfully. Dr. Dix, a rheumatologist at the event, was adamant that people must give up smoking if they have rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

As I don't smoke, I never thought to write about how smoking negatively impacts rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

By now, you know that today's cigarettes are composed of a number of harmful chemicals that are meant to keep you addicted. I won't go into that, but I would like to highlight why smoking is a "block'  that can topple your "Jenga™" structure. From my post, Health: A Jenga™ Game?:

"Imagine that the balanced Jenga structure is a representation of good health. At various points in your life, you may be neglecting or ignoring some of the previously-listed factors. Or you may not be aware of the importance of them to the whole structure or body."

How Smoking Impacts RA

Smoking is not only an expensive habit, but it can also worsen the symptoms of RA. Plus, the medications you take may not be as effective when you smoke.

People who have RA regularly undergo lab tests. One such test is CRA (C-reactive protein) which is a measurement of how much inflammation there is in the body. High levels of CRA can eventually compromise the heart. Smoking places an additional burden on the function of your heart.

It is estimated that 1 in 10 people who have RA have intersitial lung disease. You can understand how smoking can complicate things for you.

In Smoking and rheumatoid arthritis: What's the risk?, the Mayo Clinic suggests a compelling reason why you don't want to take up this habit in the first place.

"The exact reason why smoking is linked to rheumatoid arthritis isn't well understood, but researchers suspect smoking somehow ignites faulty immune system functioning in people genetically predisposed to getting rheumatoid arthritis."

What Does Stress Have to Do With It?

Imagine that you are a teenager, once again. During the break you go out to the smoking pit (does that still exist?) where you hope to connect with your peers. Someone offers you a cigarette. You're hesitant, but you light up anyway. Now you're just like them. Your feelings change. You're part of the clique, the smokers' group. Hmmm, that feels good.

Next time, you're feeling awkward, like you don't belong, you remember how you felt when you smoked. You reach for a cigarette to ignite that same feeling. And in a puff of smoke, you've lit up a new habit.

Stress, those negative thoughts and feelings, can drive you to all sorts of behaviours that can either be beneficial or detrimental to your "Jenga structure."

Become aware of the quick-as-a-wink ignition switch for the deleterious habits you want to change. What are your triggers? Your senses pick up on them, even before you are consciously aware that it is happening.

Even though it's about the cravings a heroin user experiences in a grocery store, this excerpt from The Molecule of More, explains how powerful triggers can be:

"The counselor told her patient to let her know as soon as the craving hit. They walked up and down each aisle, one by one, until suddenly the patient stopped and said, 'Now.' They were in the laundry detergent aisle, standing in front of a shelf full of bleach. Before he entered treatment, the addict had reused hypodermic needles by soaking them in bleach to avoid HIV infection." (Page 39)

Stress techniques can help you catch yourself before you start chomping on your fingernails, eat that container of ice-cream, click "buy" when you're on a budget or light up that cigarette. While those habits may not disappear in a puff of smoke, with practice you can work towards extinguishing them. Won't you do it for the health of it?

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