Join the Great American Smokeout
This year’s Great American Smokeout, sponsored by the American Cancer Society, is November 17. This third Thursday in November is set aside to urge all American smokers to quit that day or make a plan to quit. It’s never too late to quit smoking, especially for older adults.
Many Americans still smoke, even though we have had the data on the dangers of smoking for many decades. Every year in the U.S., more than 480,000 people die from tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke, making it the leading cause of preventable death in this country. Nicotine is addictive, and quitting can be difficult. But at any age, quitting nicotine will improve our mental and physical health.
You may have read that people who quit smoking can eventually lower their risk of heart disease and stroke. Previous research suggested that it could take up to 15 years for smokers to reach the same risk level of non-smokers, but recent research shows that timeline is now 8 years.
The timeline doesn’t look quite as good for other smoking-related conditions, such as cancer and emphysema. But quitting does begin to lower the risk, right away. Within minutes of a person’s last cigarette, their health begins to improve.
Smoking not only raises the risk of death. It also lowers the quality of life. Smoking raises the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, increases muscle and joint pain in people with arthritis, makes diabetes harder to manage, and raises the risk of age-related macular degeneration. Virtually all health conditions are worsened by smoking. And if quitting for health isn’t reason enough, think of how much money smokers save when they quit!
Studies show that seniors are less likely than younger people to enter a smoking cessation program. But the good news is that when they do, they are more likely to be successful at kicking the habit. Quitting will make a difference, even in our 60s and 70s.
The advantages of quitting smoking begin immediately and grow with time. After you quit:
- Heart rate and blood pressure begin to return to normal levels.
- Smell and taste improve as your nerve ending regenerate.
- Breathing improves.
- The chances of having a heart attack or stroke lessen.
- The number of nicotine receptors in your brain return to normal in only a month.
Smoking cessation resources and information
Help is available! Medicare Part B now covers certain smoking and tobacco use cessation treatment and counseling. Visit the Medicare.gov website to learn more. See www.60plus.smokefree.gov for smoking cessation resources and information specifically tailored to older adults. There are even specialized smoking cessation programs for veterans at https://veterans.smokefree.gov/.
More smoking cessation support is available from the American Heart Association, the American Lung Association’s QuitterInYou website and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. All these resources offer multiple ways to get help quitting, including telephone coaching, email programs, and smartphone apps.
There are also smoking cessation medications and nicotine replacement therapies. The key is to make a plan to quit. So get started today for a healthier tomorrow!
This information is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. Talk to your doctor about your plan to quit smoking.