Smoking is tough to give up at any age, but it can be particularly difficult for seniors whose smoking habit is decades long. But when you quit smoking, especially as a senior, there are always dramatic — and immediate — benefits to your health.
Health Risks for Seniors Who Smoke
Smoking can cause some serious health problems for anyone, but the health burden is particularly great for older adults. Here are some health problems caused by smoking that can be even more serious for seniors:
- Lung, larynx, mouth, esophageal, and many more cancers
- Weak and brittle bones, such as osteoporosis
- Cardiac conditions such as heart disease and heart attack
- Frequent respiratory infections such as pneumonia and more serious complications from the flu
- Respiratory damage that leads to persistent bronchitis, emphysema, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and difficulty breathing
Seniors are already more vulnerable to these conditions, and smoking only raises that risk. Seniors who smoke will likely feel worse, be sicker, and lose more precious years than those who don’t smoke.
Why Quit Smoking Now?
Many people think that the damage has already been done if they’ve been smoking for many years and that stopping now won’t really do any good. But that’s completely untrue — and just an excuse not to have to deal with quitting. The minute you put down your cigarettes, your body begins to recover and heal from the damage of smoking.
When you quit smoking — at any age — you can look forward to:
- Tasting and smelling things more vibrantly
- Reducing your risk of heart attack and cancer
- Having fewer respiratory problems and illnesses
- Improved circulation
- Not smelling of smoke in your skin, hair, home, and clothing
- Having a healthier family because they’re not exposed to secondhand smoke
- Saving money on cigarettes
- Exercising more easily and enjoying it more because it’s easier to breathe — even just the simple act of walking will be easier
- Living longer
- Feeling more energetic
Many of these improvements are immediate. Breathing is easier after a few months. Just one year after your last cigarette, your health will be markedly better. In fact, your risk of heart disease will be half what it was the year before when you were still a smoker. And within 10 or 15 smoke-free years, your cancer risk is nearly as low as that of someone who wasn’t a smoker.
Help for Quitting Smoking
The reason that quitting smoking is difficult isn’t necessarily because you’re young, old, smoke a little or a lot, or have smoked for ages. It’s tough to quit because cigarettes are addictive. The nicotine acts like a drug in your system. It’s what gives you that “high,” relaxed, and happy feeling when you smoke that keeps you coming back for more.
Anyone who is truly addicted to nicotine is going to have a tough time quitting smoking, and that’s certainly true for seniors who have been lighting up for decades. Plus, it’s a physical habit. A cigarette is what you have with your breakfast, after your dinner, while you’re watching TV, or when you’re chatting with friends. It’s the habit of smoking as much as the nicotine that is addictive and tough to give up.
No one said it was easy, but no one said it couldn’t be done, either.
Quitting takes a lot of determination, hard work, and preparation. You need to know your potential roadblocks and triggers, and how you will handle them before they spring up and surprise you.
Some people have success quitting cold turkey and never light up again after making the big decision. Others do better gradually tapering off their smoking, cutting out more cigarettes each day until they’ve kicked the habit.
However you choose to go about it, here are some tips to help you quit smoking once and for all:
- Consider aids to help you quit, such as nicotine gum, lozenges, or patches.
- Seek support from a friend or family member, a support group, or even a counselor.
- Have something to look forward to after a meal or at other times when you would typically smoke, such as a cup of coffee, a healthy snack like fruit, or a small piece of candy.
- Don’t hang around other smokers.
- Keep your hands and body busy: Go for walks, play cards, or start knitting — just avoid any activities that you associate with smoking.
- Ban the booze to reduce nicotine cravings and the chance that you’ll slip up.
Getting older isn’t an excuse to give up on your health. In fact, it’s the perfect time to take control of your health and kick the habit that’s been plaguing you for years.