A new study has uncovered a secret to help women quit smoking.
About 15% of American women smoke.1 Multiple studies have found it is more difficult for them to quit than it is for men.2
No one knows exactly why this is true. But some researchers have theorized that female hormones make women vulnerable to depression when they try to quit nicotine.3
Making matters worse, smoking is even more dangerous for women than it is for men.
Women face increased risk of osteoporosis, early-onset menopause, menstrual cycle irregularity, fertility problems, ectopic pregnancy, and spontaneous abortion.
Female smokers also have higher rates than male smokers for chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD).4 This is a set of lung conditions that includes emphysema, which can be fatal.
But researchers say they have found valuable new tool to help women end their tobacco addiction…
Study: Women Can Use Their Menstrual Cycle to Kick the Habit
The solution is as simple as matching your quit date to a certain time of your menstrual cycle.5 To increase your chances of successfully kicking the habit, you should wait until right after ovulation, a new study finds. That’s usually about two weeks after menstruation begins.
Researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania gathered 38 healthy, premenopausal women who smoked. They ranged in age from 21 to 51. They separated the women into two groups.
One group was just starting menstruation. This is when levels of the hormone progesterone are low. The other group had just ovulated. This is when progesterone is high.
Previous research has shown that when progesterone is low, women succumb more often to addictive behavior. But when progesterone is high following ovulation, women are better able to fight addictive behavior and overcome it.
In an attempt to confirm this theory, researchers gave both sets of women MRI brain scans. At the same time they tempted them with cigarette-related cues. These included exposing them to cigarette smoke and showing them photos of people smoking.
They discovered that during menstruation, women had much stronger signals in the reward region of brain. This is a sign their cigarette cravings were stronger than women not having their period. Their conclusion? Menstruation makes it more difficult for women to quit smoking.
The results were published in the journal Biology of Sex Differences. The study’s senior author Dr. Teresa Franklin said: “When we learn that something as simple as timing a quit date may impact a woman’s cessation success, it helps us to provide more individualized treatment strategies for individuals who are struggling with addiction.”
Her research likely applies to other addictions besides smoking, she said. That means women trying to quit alcohol, drugs, sugary foods, or any other bad habit may have better success if they quit right after ovulation.
In Good Health,
Executive Director, INH Health Watch
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