With over 80,000 people dying each year in England from smoking, stopping smoking is incredibly important. Seniors who smoke will have been doing so for a long time; many will have started in their youths, some of which in a time when it was unknown that the habit was so dangerous and bad for health. As an older person, it may seem somewhat futile to bother giving up the smokes, as it may seem like any damage is already done. However, there are actually a number of reasons that quitting smoking at any age is both possible and beneficial.
It is said that smoking can knock at least a decade off of a persons life expectancy, so can stopping smoking over the age of 50 actually help? A study from the New England Journal of Medicine claims that people who stop smoking by the time they are 55 are able to regain about six years of life, whereas those who manage to kick the habit by the age of 64 can add around four years back onto their life expectancy. For younger readers, this may seem a little insignificant, yet at an older age, you are likely to give anything for a few more good (and healthier) years with your loved ones.
Reasons to Quit as a Senior
While there are the obvious reasons to quit smoking, there are many aspects specific to seniors that you should be aware of. Firstly, smoking greatly impacts the density of your bones. With seniors already the most at risk to falls leading to breaks, it is important to do all you can to lessen the damage done to your body if you do experience a fall. Bone fractures occur far more frequently in those who smoke than those who do not. Further, smoking also impacts on those living with osteoporosis, and can even cause it if you do not stop smoking. Other health issues common to seniors all also have correlations with smoking, such as diabetes, cancer and rheumatoid arthritis.
If the health aspect doesn’t convince you enough, then one thing that might is the cost! Ditching the cigarettes will obviously save you money, especially with the rising costs of tobacco products. It’s not only the costs of the cigarettes themselves though, as stopping smoking will drastically lower the cost of any health, life or care insurance plans. Further, if you do gain health benefits from stopping the habit, then you may not end up having to spend as much money on carers or care homes in the future!
There are also a number of immediate benefits that you will begin to notice shortly after quitting smoking, as detailed below.
When you quit smoking your body begins the healing process almost immediately. For example, twenty minutes after your last cigarette, your blood pressure, pulse rate and temperature will have regulated themselves and be back to their normal levels. Within the first twelve hours, your body oxygen levels will increase and carbon monoxide levels will decrease, normalising your body. Within two days of quitting, breathing will become easier, and any damaged nerve endings will start to regrow and you’ll begin to see your sense of smell and taste return. In the first few months after quitting, your lung function and circulation will have improved and your risk of heart attack has dropped.
A year after quitting smoking the risk of heart disease, heart attack and stroke will have dropped to less than half that of a smoker. 5-15 years on, these risks will now have dropped to that of a non-smoker.
Steps to Quitting
Many people have been turning to e-cigarettes and vaping as a way to stop smoking. While these may be quick fixes to cut-down on the number of cigarettes smoked, ultimately these are only short-term ‘solutions’, and will not reduce the amount of addictive nicotine you are letting into your body. As a relatively new thing, there is also no conclusive evidence as to whether these alternatives are any less harmful to the body. Instead of turning to these options, it is instead important to really commit yourself to ending the habit once and for all. Pick a date, around a month in the future, and stick to that as your quitting day – you won’t smoke beyond it. In the month until this date, begin to develop strategies and replace some of the cigarettes you smoke with alternatives, like gum or carrot sticks, and distracting yourself with visiting friends, exercising or doing hobby activities. Keep a record of how much you smoke during this time and how you are feeling; this can help you to highlight the things that work and the ways you need to adapt your plan!
Of course, this is just the first hurdle, as sticking with quitting is arguably the hardest part. Many smokers lose willpower and resort to returning to their old ways. You must remember that it does still take a little while to really feel the benefits of stopping, but sticking with it is well worth it. Avoid places that you know will have a lot of people smoking. If a friend smokes, then try and encourage them to join you in quitting, as having someone to support your journey can make things easier.
Have you quit smoking over 50? Share your tips and tricks on how to stop with us via our social media channels! For more advice on over 50’s health check out the Wise Old Elephant blog.