Are you a senior who smokes? You’re not alone. People of all ages struggle to quit, and know that there are risks to continuing to do it. However, older smokers are at greater risks because they have usually smoked longer (an average of 40 years), tend to be heavier smokers, and are more likely to suffer from smoking-related illnesses. It can become an ingrained part of their life that they can’t imagine giving up.
You are most likely well aware of the increase in lung cancer due to smoking. What you may not know is smoking also dramatically increases the users risk of numerous other illnesses such as coronary heart disease, stroke and lower respiratory tract infections – all leading causes of death in those over 50 years of age.
What would be the benefits go quitting? Here are just a few. Be sure to consult your doctor before embarking on major health changes.
- Prolong your life
- Reduce your risk of disease (including heart disease, heart attack, high blood pressure, lung cancer, throat cancer, emphysema, ulcers, gum disease and other conditions.)
- Feel healthier (After quitting, you won’t cough as much, have as many sore throats and you will increase your stamina.)
- Look better (Quitting can help you prevent face wrinkles, get rid of stained teeth and improve your skin.)
- Improve your sense of taste and smell
- Save money, which is especially important for older adults on a fixed income
But how can you quit? You might be overwhelmed by the thought. Here are a few suggestions. See if a few of them appeal to you.
- Pick a date on the calendar to stop smoking, and share your goal with family/friends for moral support.
- List your personal reasons for quitting, and keep that list in view.
- Stop smoking in certain situations (such as after dinner, or before bed) while you work your way towards quitting completely
- Keep busy doing things that make it hard to smoke, like working in the yard and exercising.
- Fight the urge by going places where smoking isn’t allowed, and by staying around people who don’t smoke.
- Avoid situations that tempt you to smoke, like drinking coffee or alcohol.
- Find a substitute to reach for instead of a cigarette. Try a sugar-free hard candy or chew sugar-free gum.
- Remind yourself that you’re likely to feel better if you stop smoking.
- Ask your health care provider about using nicotine gum or patches. Some people find these aids helpful.
- Join a smoking cessation support group or program.
Don’t throw in the towel if you smoke a cigarette. It doesn’t mean you failed! Seventy-five percent of people who quit subsequently relapse. Most smokers quit three times before they are successful! There’s no one way to quit that works for everyone. You must be ready emotionally and mentally. You must also want to quit smoking for yourself, and not to please your friends or family. Plan ahead.
How can you keep yourself encouraged on the road to quitting?
- Don’t carry a lighter, matches or cigarettes with you.
- Ask other smokers to not smoke in your presence.
- Don’t focus on what you are missing. Think about the healthier way of life you are gaining.
- Keep yourself busy with healthy activities such as walking, seeing friends for lunch, and gardening.
- Don’t substitute food or sugar-based products for cigarettes. Eat low-calorie, healthy foods (such as carrot or celery sticks, sugar-free hard candies) or chew gum when the urge to smoke strikes so you can avoid weight gain.
- It is best to drink plenty of fluids, but to limit alcoholic and caffeinated beverages. They can trigger urges to smoke.
- Reward yourself for these milestones. You deserve it!
- Quitting becomes easier after the first few days.
Withdrawal symptoms, such as feeling irritable, hungry, coughing often, getting headaches or having difficulty concentrating occur because the body is used to nicotine, the active addicting agent within cigarettes. These symptoms occur because the body is adjusting to the lack of nicotine. The withdrawal symptoms are only temporary. They are strongest when one is first quitting but will go away within 10 to 14 days. It is good to remember that withdrawal symptoms are easier to treat than the major diseases that smoking can cause.
Don’t be discouraged if you have a relapse. Keep trying! Before embarking on any sort of health, exercise, or lifestyle changes, it’s important you speak to your doctor. Talk to your doctor about your desire to quit smoking beforehand, so that they can guide you.
For more information, visit http://www.lung.org/stop-smoking/about-smoking/facts-figures/smoking-and-older-adults.html