For seniors who have smoked all their lives, the thought of quitting can seem daunting. Suddenly breaking a decades-long habit is hard for those who haven’t been successful in the past or just don’t want to try. But for seniors who value living longer and with less medical problems, quitting is definitely still possible. In fact, it’s never too late.
The truth is that many seniors would like to quit because they know it is a dangerous habit. Medical problems for those who smoke are numerous, and for seniors, the risks can multiply.
These problems include:
- more wrinkles
- increased risk of heart attack or stroke
- increased risk of cataracts
- loss of energy
- persistent cough
- bad breath
- yellow teeth
- elevated heart rate and blood pressure
- decreased lung function, leading to trouble breathing/COPD
Seniors also are more likely to suffer hip fractures as a result of long-term smoking. Cigarettes can contribute to reduced bone density among menopausal women and smoking has been proven to be related to an increased risk for hip fractures in both men and women.
The benefits of quitting can be positive almost immediately. Within days and months, some of the previously mentioned conditions can improve. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, even 20 minutes after quitting, the heart rate drops to more normal levels. In as little as two weeks, heart attack risk plummets and lung function increases significantly. With no smoking to dull your senses, food will begin to taste better in no time. The happiness of living longer and having more moments with family and friends is also priceless. Finally, think of the money saved by not buying cigarettes!
The most powerful strategy for quitting is to decide on a definite Quit Date and a 30-45 day period leading up to it; this works much better than a long-term gradual withdrawal from cigarette brands with higher nicotine and tar levels. During this period, practice alternatives to smoking a cigarette, such as chewing gum and exercising. Nicotine-reducing patches or medications are also helpful, but seniors should be careful that these do not interfere with prescription medications for heart disease and other conditions.
When the Quit Date arrives, a reward is in order. This can be a new outfit, a special dinner or other treat. All cigarettes should be discarded. Exercise, chewing sugarless gum, commitment to a healthier lifestyle and avoiding situations that can be tempting for ex-smokers will ensure that quitting is successful.
Encourage the seniors in your life to quit smoking if at all possible, and that it IS do-able at any age. The in-home caregivers from Home Care Assistance of Fort Worth can play a major part in helping them quit, with consistent positive reinforcement and strategies that work.