Most people know that smoking is one of the worst things you can do to your body. Still, quitting is really hard for anyone who has been smoking for a long time. The nicotine in tobacco is a drug and, like many drugs, it is addictive.
However, quitting is the best thing you can do for yourself, no matter how old you are. It’s always a good time to stop smoking.
Ending Decades of Damage
It seems the older someone is, the less likely they are to try to stop smoking. Not only is it a difficult addiction to manage, some people have the mindset that if the damage has been done, why bother quitting?
For one thing, you will live longer.
More than 160,000 people over the age of 70 completed a questionnaire about their smoking habits as part of a diet and health study from the National Cancer Institute and National Institutes of Health.
Those surveyed who didn’t smoke lived longer than those who did. However, those who had quit at some point, still lived longer than those who continued to smoke.
The longer they had gone without smoking as much as doubled their chances of living longer than someone who smoked.
Smoking dramatically increases your risk for many serious diseases, and it’s responsible for one in five deaths in the U.S. each year. It leads to:
- Lung disease — Chronic bronchitis and emphysema are two conditions that make it hard to breathe.
- Heart disease — Smoking increases the chance of heart attack or stroke.
- Cancer — Smoking not only leads to lung cancer, it can also cause cancer of the bladder, cervix, esophagus, kidneys, larynx, liver, mouth, and pancreas.
- Respiratory problems — Smoking makes it harder to recover from COVID-19 and leaves you more susceptible to the flu, pneumonia, and other respiratory infections.
- Osteoporosis — Smoking limits your body’s ability to absorb calcium which could lead to weaker bones.
- Eye disease — Smoking can cause cataracts, macular degeneration, an eye diseases that causes vision loss, and even blindness.
- Diabetes — Smoking increases the chance of developing type 2 diabetes and, if you already have diabetes, smoking makes it more difficult to manage. Poorly managed diabetes can lead to heart disease, kidney failure, blindness, and amputations.
Besides these very serious conditions, smoking can contribute to sagging skin – not only on your face but all over your body, age spots, stains and damage to your teeth, and accelerated hair loss.
Stubbing out your last cigarette yields results almost immediately and the benefits add up the longer you remain tobacco free.
- 20 minutes later — Heart rate returns to normal
- 12 to 24 hours later — Carbon monoxide level in blood returns to normal. Heart attack risk drops.
- 2 weeks to 3 months later — Heart attack risk dramatically drops. Lung function starts to improve.
- 1 to 9 months later — Decrease in coughing and shortness of breath.
- 1 year later — Coronary heart disease risk drops up to 50%.
- 5 to 15 years later — Stroke risk reduced to that of someone who hasn’t smoked. Risk of mouth, throat, and esophagus cancer is half that of someone who still smokes.
- 10 years later —Risk decreases for cancer of cervix, larynx, kidney, or pancreas. Risk of dying from lung cancer or getting bladder cancer is half of those who still smoke.
- 15 years later — Risk of coronary heart disease is the same as someone who doesn’t smoke.
Don’t Give Up
One major hurdle to quitting is going through withdrawals: symptoms include restlessness, irritability, anxiousness, or tension. It might be hard to sleep or you may feel drowsy during the day. Even though withdrawal symptoms can be severe, they usually pass within two weeks.
As much as possible, avoid the situations or triggers that made you want to smoke, such as feeling stressed out or drinking alcohol or coffee.
To help deal with cravings, Smokefree.gov recommends the following:
- Drink water — Six to eight glasses a day
- Deep breaths — Take a few of these when you feel like smoking
- Delay smoking — The urge usually lasts a few minutes so meditate to resist the immediate urge
- Distract yourself — Suggestions include:
- Change your routine
- Try substitutes like carrots, sugarless gum, or breath mints
- Call a friend
Our Doctors Can Help
For many people, willpower alone is not enough. Your doctor can prescribe medications, offer advice, and provide support as you work to kick the smoking habit.
If you’re a caregiver or a senior who wants to stop smoking, or just live a healthier life, AltaMed offers coordinated care and services, including medical treatment, physical therapy, and social services.
For more information about services or eligibility, visit AltaMed.org or call (855) 252- (7223).