26 Jul Smoking and Older Adults
It is never too late to stop smoking. Anybody at any age can reap the benefits of giving up cigarettes. According to Smokefree.gov within 20 minutes of smoking the last cigarette, a body starts to make healthy changes that continue for years. And, within a few weeks people report feeling more energized, relaxed, and confident in their ability to quit tobacco.
Most older adults know they should quit smoking. Some people may have even had some successful years of not smoking but start up again for a variety of reasons. Unfortunately, the nicotine in tobacco is highly addictive and causes cravings and withdrawal symptoms similar to alcohol and other drugs. Nicotine is a powerful, fast-acting chemical which causes changes in heart rate, blood pressure, brain chemistry, and mood.
Older Adults and Smoking
People of all ages should stop smoking but it is especially important for those after the age of 50 People in this age group are more likely to begin to have health issues directly linked to smoking including:
- Frequent coughing
- Trouble breathing, wheezing, shortness of breath
- Easily tired
- Gravelly and/or deepening voice
- Throat Cancer
- Emphysema, chronic bronchitis, asthma
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- Lung cancer
- Heart disease
- Heart attack
Smoking is also linked to cancer of the esophagus, pancreas, nasal cavity, mouth, stomach, kidney, bladder, cervix, and blood.
Support to Help you Quit
The majority of smokers try to quit cold turkey. However, only a small percentage of people are successful going it alone. A variety of resources are available to help. Find the most effective method, or a combination, that works best for you and your individual circumstances. Make a plan to stop smoking today.
Know your triggers. Smoking is often in response to an emotional feeling such as feeling stressed, anxious, excited, bored, sad, or happy. Learn to deal with these emotional triggers in a healthier way.
- Talk about how you are feeling to a friend or family member
- Practice taking slow, deep breathing. This will help calm your mind and body and quiet cravings.
- Get physical. Any type of exercise will cause the brain to release feel-good endorphins.
- Avoid bars, restaurants, or other places where you enjoyed smoking. Remove cigarettes, lighters, and ashtrays from favorite smoking spots around the home. This is especially important when you first quit.
- Try cognitive behavioral therapy. A trained therapist will help you focus on identifying the negative thought patterns and emotions which lead to smoking.
Medications. These medications can double your chances of quitting permanently by helping to reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms.
- Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT). Five types of NRT products are available. A patch, gum,and lozenge can be purchased over-the-counter. An inhaler and nasal spray are by prescription. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about the best product for you.
- Prescription Drugs. Currently there are two FDA-approved medications to help smokers quit (Chantix and Zyban). Severely dependent smokers may want to consider these alternatives. Talk to your healthcare provider about side effects, if these drugs are right for you, and if they can be taken with NRT.