Cold Turkey: It’s never too late for seniors to benefit from quitting smoking

Cold Turkey: It’s never too late for seniors to benefit from quitting smoking

Cold Turkey: It's never too late for seniors to benefit from quitting smokingIt’s a sad irony to see someone still smoking cigarettes who requires an oxygen tank to breath, but it’s a sight often seen around nursing homes. Seniors who think it’s too late to benefit from ceasing smoking are wrong according to an article in Everyday Living. In fact, it suggests that quitting smoking for seniors can be more beneficial than for other age groups.

Smoking risks to seniors

Smoking at any age is risky, but even more so for older adults. Some health problems exacerbated by smoking:

  • Cancers of the lungs, mouth, esophagus and numerous others
  • Weak and brittle bones
  • Conditions such as heart disease, heart attack and stroke
  • Increased respiratory infections like pneumonia and bronchitis
  • Damage to the respiratory system that can result in emphysema, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), as well as difficulty breathing

The American Lung Association has a number of sobering statistics concerning older adults who smoke. For instance: “men 65 or older who smoke are twice as likely to die from a stroke, and women smokers are about one and half times as likely to die from stroke than nonsmoking counterparts.”

Smoking doesn’t only affect the lungs and lead to increased stroke risk. The American Lung Association also states the risk of dying from heart attack is “60 percent higher for smokers than nonsmokers 65 or older.”

Benefits of quitting smoking for seniors

  • Increased ability to taste and smell
  • A reduced risk of heart attack and cancer
  • Fewer respiratory problems
  • Improved circulation
  • Not exposing children or grandchildren to secondhand smoke
  • Savings on cigarettes
  • Longer life and more energy

At first those who quit smoking may experience a decrease in energy without nicotine to give them a boost, but as their body recovers and begins to function more efficiently they can experience increased energy as their lungs and circulatory system begin to work with less effort. Exercising will become easier, as will everyday physical tasks such as walking.

Here are some suggestions to help you quit smoking from Everyday Living:

  • Use smoke cessation aides like nicotine gum, lozenges or patches.
  • Don’t go it alone. Seek encouragement from friends and family, support groups or counselors.
  • Try substitution. Often people smoke after set actions like finishing a meal. Set up small rewards for yourself at these times like a cup of coffee, a healthy snack or candy.
  • It’s hard to quit around others who smoke. It’s probably best not to hang around other smokers.
  • Keep physically busy and occupy your hands. Go for walks, play cards, or knit.
  • Stay away from alcohol while your trying to quit. Many people get increased cravings when they’re imbibing. Being a little tipsy can also cave your judgment and willpower and might increase your chances of slipping up.

Keep in mind that getting an elderly loved one to quit can be a touchy subject even if their immediate health demands it. Often smoking has been a part of their life for decades and they may get defensive. It’s best to offer gentle encouragement rather than nagging. This Thanksgiving remind your elderly loved one that you’re thankful for them and want them to be around as long as possible to share memories with you and their grandchildren.

For more Nebraska residents wishing to quit smoking more information is available from the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services at

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