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Are you a smoker? Isn't it time to quit cigarettes?

November is lung cancer awareness month, when we're reminded that this is America's top cancer killer, claiming more lives than breast, prostate, colon and pancreatic cancers combined.

Most lung cancers are connected with smoking. And so it's almost time for the Great American Smokeout, which is Nov. 17.

Studies show that people with a well-thought-out plan and strong support increase their chances of success. Here are tips from Bill Blatt, director of tobacco programs for the American Lung Association:

• Realize you don't have to quit alone. The association offers a nationwide quit line, toll-free 1-800-784-8669, which connects you with a live counselor.

• Tell friends and family that you're trying to quit. "People understand that it's difficult; they'll give you a little leeway" if you're not quite yourself as you learn to live without cigarettes.

• Know the difference between a slip and a relapse. A single slip doesn't mean you've relapsed into smoking. But to ensure that it doesn't go any further, "Treat a slip as an emergency. Get rid of your cigarettes, and see if you can figure out what happened. If you have a friend who has already quit smoking," Blatt says, "call that person for support and advice."

• Understand that "every moment you spend without smoking is a success, and you should be proud" of each one. On Nov. 17, take note of those moments and use them to motivate you to quit once and for all.

Want extra help with your pledge? Wellspring Oncology in Pinellas Park will pay you $5 if you bring in an opened pack of cigarettes and sign their Bucks for Butts "I Quit" promise poster. Here's the sneaky part: Just when you least expect it, you might be contacted to make sure you're sticking with the program — and that you're still eligible to win the coveted title of "Grand Quitter Winner.'' For information, call (727) 343-0600 or visit www.wellspringoncology.org.

ON YOUR WAY TO DIABETES? It's also diabetes awareness month, and no wonder some consider it our top public health crisis: The number of Americans with diabetes has soared along with the obesity epidemic, from 6 million in 1980 to almost 19 million today.

Devastating as this illness is, lots of people don't know they have it, particularly when it comes to Type 2 diabetes.

An estimated 6 million Americans are undiagnosed diabetics, and a whopping 79 million are considered prediabetic — on the way to full-blown disease if they don't take action.

If you don't know your numbers and other risk factors, look for free education programs and screenings this month at bay area health facilities. A sample, from the Morton Plant-Mease hospitals:

• On Tuesday, 11 a.m.-1 p.m., Morton Plant North Bay Hospital in New Port Richey offers both screenings and a presentation from Dr. Marcos Garcia, who'll help you understand who is at risk, and why.

• On Nov. 16, from noon to 2 p.m. at the Long Center in Clearwater, you can get a variety of free health screenings and hear from a panel of physicians about the wide range of diabetes-associated complications.

To get information on these and other events, and to register, call (727) 953-9240 or visit www.baycareevents.org.

HOLD THE GOOEY STUFF: With Thanksgiving on the way, you'll see lots of sweet potatoes in stores. But if they always seem to jump into your grocery cart accompanied by butter, brown sugar and marshmallows, it may be time to reconsider your approach.

Jennifer R. Reilly, a registered dietitian, author and blogger, says the sweet potato's orange color signals the presence of antioxidants, particularly betacarotene, the water-soluble form of vitamin A. "That can stop DNA damage from free radicals, which can show up as wrinkles on your face now and cancer down the road," Reilly says.

A medium-size sweet potato has about 100 calories and nearly 4 grams of fiber (about 15 percent of the daily value), "a couple more grams than white, which makes sweet potatoes more filling," Reilly says. That fiber helps reduce cholesterol by latching onto it and whisking it out of the body, she says.

Reilly suggests baking sweet potatoes because heat enhances betacarotene's antioxidant activity, which keeps the glycemic index low.

Try grating them and adding them raw to salads or mixing them into pancake batter or chili. "Or just scrub the outside, boil and mash them and add a bit of salt and a touch of olive oil," she suggests.

Compiled from staff and wire reports

Are you a smoker? Isn't it time to quit cigarettes? 11/04/11 [Last modified: Friday, November 4, 2011 4:30am]

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