It’s Never Too Late to Quit Smoking!
November 21, 2019 is the Great American Smokeout 2019. Sponsored by the American Cancer Society, this event encourages smokers to quit for one day … and to take steps to extend that to the next day and beyond.
No matter your age, there are plenty of reasons to quit smoking!
You probably know that smoking raises the risk of several types of cancer. It damages the heart and lungs. It is linked with the risk of macular degeneration and cataracts, which both cause serious vision loss. It weakens the bones. People who smoke are more likely to experience muscle and joint pain. And next time you look in the mirror, consider that smoking yellows the teeth and causes wrinkles.
Smoking is also linked to Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia.
A study by Kaiser Permanente found that heavy smoking in midlife increases the risk of Alzheimer’s disease by 157%, and the risk of vascular dementia by 172%. A study at this year’s Alzheimer’s Association International Conference raised that number even more; the scientists said that smoking a pack a day for 10 years doubles the risk of thinking and memory problems.
Smoking is expensive.
If you give up a two-pack-a-day habit, you’ll find an extra $4,000 each year in your pocket—perhaps more in lower insurance costs. And if saving money for money isn’t enough, consider that smoking is bad for the U.S. economy. The American Medical Association says healthcare costs associated with smoking equal over $300 billion each year. Medicare estimates that 10% of its budget goes toward treating smoking-related illnesses.
Many older adults believe that if they’ve smoked their whole lives, the damage is already done and it doesn’t do any good to quit. In fact, they are mistaken! When seniors quit, their health begins to improve right away. If you take the first step and quit for a day, here’s what will happen:
- After 20 minutes, your heart rate will drop to a more normal level.
- 12 hours later, the carbon monoxide level in your blood will return to normal.
Did you make it for a day? Don’t stop now! Here’s what you can expect over time:
- Three weeks later, your risk of heart attack will begin to drop and your lung function will start to improve. Coughing and shortness of breath will decrease.
- One year after quitting, your risk of heart attack will be cut by half. You’ll have more energy.
- Five years after quitting, your risk of stroke will decrease, and it will continue to decrease. Your risk of dementia will be lower, and if you are already living with memory loss, symptoms may lessen.
- By ten years after quitting, your risk of dying from lung cancer is cut by half.
So even if you’ve tried to quit before, perhaps failing again and again, it’s worth it to give it another try! Ask your doctor about smoking cessation resources. You can also find online information from the Great American Smokeout website. The Lung Association offers quit-smoking resources for Lung Cancer Awareness Month in November. Or visit SmokeFree.gov to find tools from the National Institutes of Health.
A note about e-cigarettes. You may have seen recent news about serious health problems and deaths caused by “vaping.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns that these products can contain substances that harm the body. In addition, though some smokers use e-cigarettes to help quit smoking, the CDC says that for most, this is not an effective smoking cessation strategy.
The information in this article is not intended to replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Talk to your doctor about a smoking cessation strategy that’s right for you.