quitting smoking

  1. The fastest way to boost your health

    Close to 50 million Americans can dramatically reduce their death risk by making one simple change right now -- and it won't cost a cent. In fact, it'll save you thousands of dollars a year. Despite that fact, most people can't (or won't) make that one simple change.

    You may have guessed by now that I'm talking about smoking -- more specifically, quitting smoking.

    That might sound obvious to you -- but what's not as obvious is how quickly you could see those benefits.

    According to a recent study in the Lancet, quitting today could actually slash your risk of dying in just six months.

    Those benefits aren't just for the smokers. The researchers also found that the public bans on lighting up can also help protect entire communities in that same six-month window.

    In Scotland, for example, in the six months after a smoking ban took effect in 2006, there was a 17-percent drop in hospital admissions for acute coronary syndrome and a 6-percent drop in cardiac deaths outside of hospitals.

    Closer to home, a smoking ban in Helena, Montana, a few years back led to a 40-percent drop in admissions for acute coronary syndrome at one hospital within six months. Then, when that ban was suspended by a series of court cases, the
    numbers shot right back up.

    So the bottom line is that when people smoke, people die...and when they're forced to cut back, they live. And all it takes is six months.

    Since the benefits of dietary and lifestyle changes can take between one and three years to kick in, kicking butts is actually one of the fastest ways to boost your health.

    The latest numbers from Ohio point in the same direction. The state's health department says there was a 26-percent drop in ER visits for heart attacks after a public smoking ban took effect in 2007.

    And in 2009, U.S., Canadian, and European cities saw 17 percent fewer heart attacks in the year following a smoking ban, along with drops of between 26 percent and 36 percent over three years. (Read more here.)

    If all that inspires you to quit, be sure to do it without the help of antismoking meds. Those things can be even worse for you than smoking itself.

    The most commonly used med, Chantix, has been linked to violence, aggression, and suicide. In fact, one recent study found that the number of suicides among people who've taken it might be double what we've been led to believe.

    Chantix has even been found to up the odds of a heart attack.

    That's not how you save lives -- that's how you end them.

    Speaking of bad habits, keep reading for the latest numbers on soda.

  2. Cold turkey never looked so good

    There's no doubt about it: If you're a smoker, the best thing you can do for yourself, your family, and your body is to quit -- and quit right now.

    But if you turn to meds for help, you might get the wrong kind of quit: Pfizer's notoriously risky anti-smoking drug Chantix has been linked to a disturbing number of suicides.

    And now, researchers say the 122 suicides tied to this med so far tell only part of the story -- less than half the story, in fact. Because their analysis of misfiled Pfizer reports found 150 additional Chantix-related suicides.

    In addition to the suicides, researchers from the Institute for Safe Medication Practices found 102 cases of possible hostility and aggression, 156 depressed patients, and 56 patients who may have battled psychosis -- all after taking the drug, and all "misfiled" in Pfizer's adverse event reports to the FDA.

    Now, you're probably wondering how it's even possible to "misfile" all those reports -- and that's where this gets extra shady.

    Instead of filing these reports individually and within 15 days as required by the FDA for serious and unexpected side effects, Pfizer filed them in the quarterly "periodic reports" reserved for expected side effects.

    But let's look at this from a different point of view -- maybe this is just Pfizer being more honest than we've come to expect. Maybe it's just the company's way of saying it expects suicides, aggression, and depression among Chantix users.

    Whatever the reason, the Institute for Safe Medication Practices senior scientist who looked at the Chantix data says Chantix is the riskiest drug they analyzed in their review of FDA reports -- in the third quarter of 2010 it was linked to twice as many deaths as any other medication.

    And that's just another piece of bad news for a drug that's made quite a few headlines, and not in a good way. As I told you a couple months back, Chantix actually finished first on a list of drugs most likely to be linked to violence. (Read about that here.)

    The new report finds more evidence of that, too -- like the 24-year-old woman who suddenly began beating her boyfriend as he slept because he "looked so peaceful."

    That woman almost won a spot on another Chantix list as well: She later tried to kill herself.

    Despite these and other well-known risks, Chantix isn't even very good at helping smokers to quit. Studies have shown that 80 percent of all patients who try it are back to smoking -- or still smoking -- a year later.

    That's if they survive taking Chantix.

2 Item(s)