It's Never Too Late to Quit
When it comes to quitting smoking, older people may be faced with some especially discouraging issues. Maybe they’ve tried to quit – more than once. Maybe they think they’re too old and that the damage has been done. But according to experts, it’s never too late to stop smoking, and to do it successfully.
It’s not that older smokers don’t want to quit. Many of them do, knowing that being smoke-free would have a number of positive results, from the avoidance of serious diseases like stroke and heart disease, to the likelihood of having more money and more energy.
But experts from NIHSeniorHealth, a division of the National Institutes of Health, say that quitting benefits people at every stage of life. They ask would-be quitters to consider the following statistics.
20 minutes after quitting, your heart rate drops to more normal levels.
12 hours after quitting, the carbon monoxide level in your blood returns to normal.
2 weeks to 3 months after quitting, your heart attack risk begins to drop and your lung function begins to improve.
If you’ve been diagnosed with a significant health problem, quitting smoking makes it more likely the treatment will be successful and that you’ll have fewer side effects.
Talk to your doctor about what stop-smoking aids would be good for you – the patch or oral medications, for example. But don’t use e-cigarettes to quit. Indications are that they are likely not safe.
One of the most difficult aspects of quitting smoking, especially after decades, is that you’ve probably come to regard tobacco as an “old friend,” someone who stands by you and whom you can rely on for comfort. That’s all the more reason you need to avoid places that remind you of your “friend.”
NIHSeniorHealth suggests that you avoid bars and alcohol. For many people, the NIH SeniorHealth experts say, a bar is a trigger because it reminds them of lighting up a cigarette. The experts recommend that you avoid drinking alcohol for several weeks after quitting.
Try other activities that you enjoy, like going to a movie, taking a walk, reading or even traveling. Keeping yourself busy is key when you’re trying to give up tobacco.
We’ve all heard about the de-stressing benefits of exercise, and anyone trying to quit needs as much de-stressing as they can possibly get. Exercising can also make you less likely to gain weight. Be sure to ask your doctor what level of exercise is right for you.
Just the way someone on a diet has to plan how he or she will deal with restaurant meals, people who are quitting smoking need to forecast what obstacles they might run into when away from home.
The NIH SeniorHealth team says that whether you’re traveling for business or pleasure, you’ll probably run into some smoking temptations. To deal with them, the experts say, start by asking for a nonsmoking room, and making sure that’s what you get when you arrive. You can also call any restaurants you plan to go to and see if they have a nonsmoking policy.
Be aware, the SeniorHealth experts say, that you will encounter frustrations and delays on trips that could lead you to smoke again. You may also find yourself in places that you associate with smoking. Take some smoking substitutes with you, like hard candy or sugar-free gum. Write down your reasons for quitting on a piece of paper and keep it with you.
The SeniorHealth people also offer the following affirmations to make quitting easier:
I can do anything for this one day.
Nothing will be too much for me.
I can even break the day down into each of its 24 hours if the struggle demands it.
I can focus on just 1 hour at a time.
I can survive 60 minutes at a time without a cigarette.
They also suggest a “one-minute vacation”:
1. Take a deep, slow breath through your nose.
2. As you inhale, picture yourself in your favorite restful spot.
3. Exhale slowly through your mouth, holding that scene in your mind.
4. Enjoy the pleasure of that scene.
5. Feel your neck and shoulder muscles relax.
6. Open your eyes, feel refreshed, and repeat as often as you like.
For more resources, visit smokefree.gov.