Good news for older smokers who may think that quitting smoking may not be worth it.
A study from the German Cancer Research Center in Heidelberg that incorporated 17 studies in 7 different countries compared the health of former smokers versus those that didn't quit and found that older smokers who quit had significantly better health.
Smokers over the age of 60 had an 83 percent increase of death (for any reason) than non-smokers, while older smokers who had quit had a 34 percent higher risk, cutting their risk by well over half.
Smoking is a known cause of various cancers, stroke, many kinds of heart disease, serious respiratory diseases like emphysema, prematurely aging skin, changes in voice, and can even lead to limb amputation.
If older smokers have no signs of ill-health due to smoking (most do, from breathing difficulties to bad heart health, or even bad skin and damaged vocal chords) they feel there is no need to quit.
But older smokers often convince themselves that their gravelly voices, inability to move/walk quickly or breathing difficulties are simply due to old age. The fact remains that older smokers are never in better health than those who don't smoke.
While everyone knows of someone who smoked and lived a great life until they were 90 (and knew a fitness instructor who dropped dead at 40 -- we've all heard these justifications! ) these stories are the exception, not the rule. Perhaps the reason we've heard these stories is because they ARE the exception.
According to EmpowHER's Smoking Cessation Advocacy Sheet, there are about 46 million Americans who smoke and about 440,000 smoking-related deaths occur every year -- a rather staggering number.
The benefits from quitting smoking literally begin within minutes. From our Advocacy Page:
• Heart rate and blood pressure will begin to return to normal (smoker’s usually are abnormally high).
• Soon after quitting, the level of carbon monoxide begins to decline, allowing the blood to carry more oxygen than while smoking.
• Within weeks, you will experience improved circulation, produce less phlegm, and won’t cough or wheeze as much.
• Within several months, you can expect to see substantial improvements in lung function.
• Your sense of smell and taste will improve.
What is the long-term benefit? Quitting will reduce your risk of developing cancer, heart disease, and COPD. It may take a while, but quitting will reduce the chances you will die from a smoking-related illness.
Quitting will also save a person a small fortune, with a pack of cigarettes retailing at about six dollars.
There are many ways to quit. Joining a smoking cessation group can really help.
EmpowHER has such a group and it can be found here:
Nicotine gums and patches can be bought at a pharmacy without prescription, costing from $20-$50. Doctors can also prescribe medications that can help.
Some can quit cold turkey, others gradually and with a lot of support. It can take time to figure out what the best method of quitting is for you.
Let's get back to the study of older smokers. Doctors hope these findings show older smokers that it's an excellent idea to quit at any age, and that their lives will improve. And not only are they likely to live longer, but live better.
Yahoo News. Health. " Quitting Smoking Even in Old Age Prolongs Life: Study." Web. Retrieved Tuesday, June 12, 2012.
EmpowHER.com. Addictions. Smoking Cessation Advocacy Sheet. Web. Retrieved Tuesday, June 12, 2012.
Reviewed June 12, 2012
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith