Another Great Reason for Seniors to Quit Smoking

Stop smoking mature male doctor break cigarette

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 a new study suggests that older people may lower their risk in an even shorter time. At the 2013 American Heart Association Scientific Sessions, researchers from University of Alabama at Birmingham’s School of Medicine shared findings showing that seniors who quit smoking lower their risk of cardiovascular disease-related death to the level of people who have never smoked in a median of eight years. "It's good news," said senior researcher Dr. Ali Ahmed. "Now there's a chance for even less of a waiting period to get a cleaner bill of cardiovascular health."

The timeline doesn't look quite as good for other conditions, such as cancer and emphysema. But quitting does begin to lower the risk, right away. "Smoking is the most preventable cause of early death in America," said Dr. Ahmed. "If you smoke, quit and quit early!"

Smoking not only raises the risk of death. It also lowers the quality of life. Smoking raises the risk of Alzheimer's disease by 157 percent … increases muscle and joint pain in people with arthritis … and raises the risk of age-related macular degeneration, a leading cause of vision loss in older adults.  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!

Confirming that tobacco use causes one in five deaths annually and is the top cause of preventable death and disability, the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) recently recommended the new www.BeTobaccoFree.gov website, which offers one-stop access to the latest information on tobacco-related topics—including evidence-based methods of quitting. AHRQ’s Dr. Carolyn Clancy shares the START Method:

START the process by:

S = Setting a quit date. Pick a date within the next two weeks. That gives you enough time to get ready, but not so much time that you lose your determination.
T = Telling others about your plan to quit. Quitting is easier to do with support from others. Tell family, friends, and co-workers how they can help you.
A = Anticipating the challenges you will face. Most people who return to smoking do it within the first three months. Be prepared for situations when you will be tempted to smoke, and plan for how you will deal with them.
R = Removing cigarettes from your home, car, and work. Getting rid of things that remind you of smoking will help you get ready to quit. Clean your car, get rid of lighters and ashtrays, and have your teeth cleaned to get rid of smoking stains.
T = Talking to your doctor about getting help to quit. Some people need help to manage the withdrawal from nicotine. Ask your health care provider if a medicine might help you. You can buy some of these medicines on your own, like the nicotine patch or nicotine gum. Others require a prescription.

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.

Smoking Cessation Resources and Information

Medicare Part B now covers certain smoking and tobacco use cessation treatment and counseling. Visit the Medicare.gov website to learn more.

Visit Smokfree.gov for smoking cessation resources and information.

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 (CDC).

Source: Assisting Hands Home Care in association with IlluminAge. Copyright © IlluminAge, 2014