updated 2/8/2011 6:15:56 AM ET 2011-02-08T11:15:56

SAN DIEGO, Feb. 8, 2011 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- It's American Heart Month and Healthyroads, Inc., the wellness subsidiary of American Specialty Health Incorporated, is offering smokers yet another reason to quit smoking—it's a perfect gift for a loved one this Valentine's Day.

"Every year thousands of couples get the heartbreaking news that a spouse or partner has heart disease, a condition often attributed to tobacco use and the number one killer of men and women in the U.S.," said Elizabeth Thompson, MPH, RD, and vice president of health coaching programs for Healthyroads. "But couples, working together, can improve their heart health by committing to quitting tobacco and helping each other stay quit for good. Doing so can dramatically reduce a smoker's risk of cardiovascular disease."

Giving up cigarettes will not only help you live more healthfully, but it can also improve the lives of those around you. Secondhand smoke has been classified as a known cancer-causing agent and can also contribute to heart disease in nonsmokers. In addition, smoking inside or near your house can be dangerous. Smoking is the main cause of death from fire in the home. To protect yourself and your loved ones this Valentine's Day, throw out the cigarettes for good.

If you do smoke, remember that quitting really is possible. Millions of adult smokers have quit, and you can too. And don't just switch to a "low-tar, low-nicotine" cigarette. They will not necessarily help you lower your tobacco intake. Instead, you may be tempted to smoke more of them to satisfy your nicotine addiction. There are more effective ways to start your tobacco cessation process. You may want to explore options such as nicotine patches and inhalers. You can also look into medication, tapering, and even therapies such as health coaching and acupuncture. Ask your health care provider about the best ways to wean yourself off tobacco and talk to your HR department to see what benefits are available to you to help you quit.

What if you don't smoke, but someone you love does? Give your loved one the gift of encouragement! Supporting someone with positive reinforcement while he or she quits can work wonders. Some studies have found that live-in partners and spouses trying to quit smoking greatly benefited from their loved ones' support. And if your loved one slips up and smokes a cigarette, try not to criticize. Negative feedback such as nagging or policing may not be as effective as encouragement in helping a smoker quit. Encourage your significant other to stick to his/her goals by leaving little notes of inspiration where he or she will find them—on the pillow, in a desk drawer, or in some other surprise spot. A reward of flowers, a card, or a spa treatment together can also help to reinforce motivation.

Improving your heart health with your partner doesn't have to be a chore. With a little inspiration, it can be a fun journey to a long and rewarding life together. Use your relationship to empower your health and your health to empower your relationship.

About American Specialty Health and Healthyroads

American Specialty Health Incorporated (ASH) is a national health and wellness company that provides prevention and wellness services, specialty network programs, and fitness and exercise services to health plans, insurance carriers, employer groups, and trust funds. Based in San Diego, ASH has more than 700 employees and serves over 20 million members.

Healthyroads, Inc. is the health improvement subsidiary of ASH and offers a wide range of personal health solutions--including award-winning telephone-based personal health coaching programs, member engagement promotion programs, incentive management programs, competitive challenges, worksite wellness programs, and an integrated online health improvement portal, Healthyroads.com.

For more information about ASH health and wellness programs, visit ASHCompanies.com or call (800) 848-3555. Follow us on Twitter at www.Twitter.com/ASHCompanies or www.Twitter.com/Healthyroads !

CONTACT: American Specialty Health
         Meredith Mulligan
         (619) 578-2000
         meredithm@ashn.com
         
         Debby Clark
         800.848.3555
         debbyc@ashn.com

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