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For women trying to quit smoking, biology is working against you

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There are a lot of things that revolve around our visits from Aunt Flo, ladies. But apparently, the list is even longer if you’re trying to quit smoking.

According to a new study out of the University of Montreal, chocolate is not the only thing you crave like clockwork.

"Our data reveal that [uncontrollable] urges to smoke are stronger at the beginning of the follicular phase that begins after menstruation,” says psychiatry professor Adrianna Mendrek.

As with every other misery of being a woman, the effect is down to hormones. As estrogen and progesterone levels drop, they start a vicious cycle of withdrawal symptoms and “increase activity of neural circuits associated with craving," she says.

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So what’s a girl to do? Mendrek believes that quitting could be easier for women after ovulation, when both those hormones are flowing freely.

But the solution is not as simple as timing. Fewer than one in 10 smokers who quit remain smoke-free after a year, and women have a harder time quitting than men. Previous smoking-related animal studies have also shown gender differences.

"Female rats become addicted more quickly, and are willing to work harder for the same quantity of dose," Mendrek explains, which led her team to conclude that women are at higher risk of addiction, likely because of hormone fluctuations.

She added, however, that stress, anxiety and depression probably remain more important factors to consider when a person is trying to quit.

 
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