Newswise — NEW YORK, February 11, 2015 - The heart is a symbol of love, and there’s no better way to say “I love you” than to help someone you love quit smoking. February is American Heart Month, and New York City Treats Tobacco wants you take steps towards a healthier heart by quitting smoking!

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 600,000 people die each year from heart disease, making it the leading cause of the death in the United States. Smoking damages blood vessels, increases blood pressure, reduces how much oxygen your heart gets, and makes blood clots more likely. “Smoking is one of the leading risk factors for coronary diseases and quitting smoking is one of the most important steps you can take to reduce your risk,” said Donna Shelley, MD, MPH, Vice Chair for Research, Department of Population Health, Co-Chair of the Section on Tobacco, Alcohol and Drug Use at NYU School of Medicine.

The effects of quitting smoking start immediately. Within two minutes—blood pressure and heart rate return to normal, within 2-12 weeks—circulation improves, and within one year—heart disease risk is cut in half. For Valentine’s Day give the gift of health and support the tobacco users in your life by:

• Encouraging your loved one to talk to their doctor about quitting.• Putting together a Valentine’s Day gift basket with alternatives to smoking such as sugar-free gum, low calorie snacks, or a reusable water bottle.• Purchasing items such as: a journal so they can write down their triggers and plans to address these triggers, or a pass to a fitness club to encourage overall good health.• Giving your loved ones a money savings jar where every day they don’t smoke, they can put the money they would have spent on cigarettes in the jar. The savings mount up quickly!

Remember quitting smoking is not easy. Support your loved ones and urge them to take advantage of the free resources available, such as the New York State Smokers’ Quitline at 1-866-NY-QUITS. The Quitline provides free coaching, information and a free starter kit of nicotine patches to eligible New York residents. During the month of February all callers to the Quitline will receive a red dress pin or bracelet. Wearing a red dress pin is a tangible reminder that better heart health begins with quitting smoking.

About NYC Treats TobaccoNYC Treats Tobacco (NYCTT) is a project funded by the New York State Department of Health, Bureau of Tobacco Control and is led by the NYU School of Medicine, Department of Population Health. NYCTT supports health care organizations, particularly those serving low income and mentally ill patient populations, to implement policies and system changes that will ensure that all patients are routinely screened for tobacco use and all tobacco users are offered evidence-based treatment for nicotine dependence.

About NYU Langone Medical CenterNYU Langone Medical Center, a world-class, patient-centered, integrated academic medical center, is one of the nation’s premier centers for excellence in clinical care, biomedical research, and medical education. Located in the heart of Manhattan, NYU Langone is composed of four hospitals—Tisch Hospital, its flagship acute care facility; Rusk Rehabilitation; the Hospital for Joint Diseases, the Medical Center’s dedicated inpatient orthopaedic hospital; and Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital, a comprehensive pediatric hospital supporting a full array of children’s health services across the Medical Center—plus the NYU School of Medicine, which since 1841 has trained thousands of physicians and scientists who have helped to shape the course of medical history. The Medical Center’s tri-fold mission to serve, teach, and discover is achieved 365 days a year through the seamless integration of a culture devoted to excellence in patient care, education, and research. For more information, go to, and interact with us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.