Quitting Smoking For Older Adults

It doesn’t matter how old you are or how long you’ve been smoking, quitting smoking at any time improves your health. When you quit, you are likely to add years to your life, breathe more easily, have more energy, and save money. You will also:

  • Lower your risk of cancer, heart attack, stroke, and lung disease
  • Have better blood circulation
  • Improve your sense of taste and smell
  • Stop smelling like smoke
  • Set a healthy example for your children and grandchildren

Smoking shortens your life. It causes about one of every five deaths in the United States each year. Smoking makes millions of Americans sick by causing:

  • Lung disease: smoking damages your lungs and airways, sometimes causing chronic bronchitis. It can also cause emphysema, which destroys your lungs, making it very hard for you to breathe.
  • Heart disease: smoking increases your risk of heart attack and stroke.
  • Cancer: smoking can lead to cancer of the lungs, mouth, larynx (voice box), esophagus, stomach, liver, pancreas, kidneys, bladder, and cervix.
  • Respiratory problems: If you smoke, you are more likely than a nonsmoker to get the flu, pneumonia, or other infections that can interfere with your breathing.
  • Osteoporosis: if you smoke, your chance of developing osteoporosis (weak bones) is greater.
  • Eye diseases: Smoking increases the risk of eye diseases that can lead to vision loss and blindness, including cataracts and age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
  • Diabetes: Smokers are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than nonsmokers, and smoking makes it harder to control diabetes once you have it. Diabetes is a serious disease that can lead to blindness, heart disease, nerve disease, kidney failure, and amputation.

Smoking can also make muscles tired easily, make wounds harder to heal, increase the risk of erectile dysfunction in men, and make the skin become dull and wrinkled.

Nicotine is a Drug

Nicotine is the drug in tobacco that makes cigarettes so addictive. Although some people who give up smoking have no withdrawal symptoms, many people continue to have strong cravings for cigarettes. They also may feel grumpy, hungry, or tired. Some people have headaches, feel depressed, or have problems sleeping or concentrating. These symptoms fade over time.

Help with Quitting

Many people say the first step to quitting smoking successfully is to firm decision to quit and pick a defined date to stop. Make a plan to deal with the situations that trigger your urge to smoke and cope with cravings. You may need to try many approaches to find what works best for you. For example, you might:

  • Talk with your doctor
  • Read self-help information
  • Go to individual or group counseling
  • Download the mobile apps or sign up for the text messaging service at SmokeFree60+
  • Ask a friend for help
  • Think of what you can do with the money you spend on cigarettes and set up a rewards system
  • Talk a walk or try a new physical activity you enjoy
  • Take medicine to help with symptoms of nicotine withdrawal

Some people worry about gaining weight if they quit. If that concerns you, make a plan to exercise and be physically active when you quit. It may distract you from your cravings and is important for healthy aging.

Breaking the Addiction

When you quit smoking, you may need support to cope with your body’s desire for nicotine. Nicotine replacement products help some smokers quit. You can buy gum, patches, or lozenges over the counter.

There are also prescription medications that may help you quit. A nicotine nasal spray or inhaler can reduce withdrawal symptoms and make it easier for you to quit smoking.

Other drugs may also help with withdrawal symptoms. Talk to your doctor about which medicines might be best for you.