Healthy Aging: Quit Smoking
By Elizabeth Archer
September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, but adults shouldn’t feel left out: September is also Healthy Aging Month. There’s really no better way to age healthfully than to quit smoking.
More than 15 million adults 50 or older in the United States are smokers, and about 300,000 smoking-related deaths occur each year among people who are age 65 and older — that’s as much as the populations of Lake, Mendocino and Humboldt counties combined. Older smokers usually know about the health effects of smoking, but they don’t always know about the benefits of quitting as an adult. It’s time to declare the truth loud and clear: No matter how old you are, quitting smoking immediately improves your health and can add years to your life. And it is not just older smoker who benefits from cessation. There is no risk-free level of secondhand smoke, so older adults who quit also reduce secondhand smoke dangers for their partners, children, grandchildren, friends and neighbors.
A typical smoker who quits after age 65 can add two to three years to his or her life expectancy. Within a year of quitting, former smokers reduce their risk of coronary heart disease by half. Ten years after quitting, the risk of lung cancer is reduced by half. And, quitting smoking dramatically reduces the risk of death or a second heart attack in adults already diagnosed with coronary heart disease.
Older smokers are from a generation where quitting often meant going cold turkey, and many underestimate their ability to quit. That concern is misplaced, though, because older adults who try to quit are almost twice as likely to succeed as younger adults.
But you don’t have to go cold turkey. There are nicotine patches, gums and prescription drugs that can help more than double your chances of successfully quitting. There are telephone quit line programs in every state (California’s is 1-800-NO-BUTTS), and group or one-on-one counseling programs offered by physicians and smoking cessation counselors. Medicare will even help pay for some cessation counseling sessions.
It’s true that many smokers have to try five or six times before they succeed in quitting. But that doesn’t mean you can’t succeed, especially if you take advantage of counseling and medications now available. Don’t give up on yourself or your chance to start leading a healthier life right now, and to give your loved ones a chance to love you back without the risk of second-hand smoke. It is never, ever too late to quit, and there’s no time like the present. Call now: 1-800-NO-BUTTS, or 1-800-QUIT-NOW.
Elizabeth Archer is executive assistant at North Coast Opportunities.