Ten tips to help you quit smoking and reduce the chances of developing AMD

It’s common knowledge that smoking costs a lot of cash, but did you know that it could also cost you your sight?

smokefreeStudies have shown that smoking can increase your chances of developing age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the UK’s leading cause of blindness, and cataracts.

The research suggests that smokers are twice as likely to develop AMD, their eyesight usually worsening earlier and faster, than non-smokers. If you’re struggling to give up, these ten tips should help you on your way.

Top tips for going smoke free

Unlike cataracts the effects of AMD are irreversible. The medications available to treat AMD exist purely to prevent vision loss from developing further, and in order for them to be truly effective you must already be leading a healthy lifestyle – eating well, exercising regularly, and avoiding cigarettes.

Use these top tips to help you help yourself. It’s never too late to quit, so why not start today?

  1. Think positive – You can do this. You won’t be beaten. You’re in control. Staying in a positive frame of mind will remind you that giving up isn’t impossible even when it seems like it is.
  2. Tell everyone that you’ve stopped – Friends, family, and co-workers can be a great support. Some may even decide to go smoke free with you and a group effort will make your chances of quitting even better.
  3. Don’t go cold turkey – If you do you could be setting yourself up for failure. The NHS has seen a rise in people attempting to quit smoking but fewer than half actually manage it. The reason is that nicotine is highly addictive. Slowly cut out smoking and the brain will more easily adjust to its absence. It is possible to phase out cigarettes on will-power alone but if this becomes too challenging nicotine replacement products do exist to aid you.
  4. Celebrate the small steps – Celebrate each and every smoke free day. By marking off the days on a calendar you’ll be able to remind yourself how far you’ve come when temptation begins to creep back in. You could even celebrate with a few little treats!
  5. Exercise a little more – Physical activity can reduce cravings and ease withdrawal symptoms. Plus, jogging is an excellent way to avoid lighting up a cigarette and the extra calorie burning will ward off any weight gained from an increased appetite. Alternatively choose a milder activity; if you clean the house every time you want to smoke then your home will be spotless in no time.
  6. Improve your relaxation techniques – Take up yoga, get a massage, breathe more deeply. Smoking is a habit often triggered by stress. By learning how to manage stress you’ll find it much, much easier to avoid smoking.
  7. Get a hobby – Finding something to fill the void will not only help pass the time but it will also keep you from thinking about cigarettes. The best hobbies to go for are ones which keep your hands busy because you won’t be able to do it whilst smoking.
  8. Find a new habit – Replace smoking with a healthier habit like chewing gum or eating celery. Habits which keep your mouth busy are best because you can’t smoke and chew. By choosing a healthy snack you can also avoid the weight gain associated with quitting.
  9. Make use of props – Smoking is not just addictive, it’s also habitual. When you feel you should be holding a cigarette reach for a straw, pencil or candy stick – anything cylindrical. It’ll help you feel satisfied without the nicotine.
  10. A stumble isn’t a failure – Falling back into old habits a few times doesn’t mean you’ve lost completely. If you start smoking again examine the reason why it happened, this will make you stronger and more aware on the next attempt to quit. People, on average, make three or four attempts before they give up smoking for good.

Other benefits to quitting

Smoking will not only affect your wallet and your eyesight, it will in fact affect nearly every area of your body. By giving up smoking your body will begin to reap the benefits within hours, as shown in this animated video ‘The Quit Smoking Timeline’.

Get your vision tested

Whether you smoke or not it is essential that you regularly have your sight tested by a professional. AMD is caused by various factors, both genetically and in your lifestyle, and can cause severe vision loss within a couple of years if left untreated.

By making sure that your optometrist has an MPS II macular pigment screener installed in their practice you can ensure that your results are as reliable as possible. This will allow your eye-care expert to have accurate readings within 90 seconds, giving them the ability to give the correct advice, and prescribe any needed medications, during the same appointment.

Other information

For more about the MPS II macular pigment screener visit the ophthalmics pages on the Elektron Healthcare website.

If you’d like more support to quit smoking please seek advice from the NHS’ Smokefree website.

To learn more about AMD, and other sight-threatening conditions, see the RNIB’s ‘Spot the Signs’ campaign.

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