OVER 60? IT’S NOT TOO LATE TO QUIT SMOKING WITH THESE 6 QUESTIONS
If you’re a smoker over 60 years old, there’s a good chance you’ve tried to quit smoking before. And, you might not see much reason to try again now. Perhaps you’re convinced it would be too hard after so many years. Or why bother, when the damage to your health has already been done?
Quitting smoking is one of the best things you can do for your health, even if you’re over 60. Smokers who quit later in life can still greatly decrease their risk of premature death from smoking-related illnesses like cancer, heart disease and stroke. Plus, you’ll likely breathe easier, have more energy and feel younger overall.
And remember, smoking doesn’t just affect you. Adults who live with smokers are more likely to die of lung cancer and heart disease, and children who breathe in secondhand smoke get sick more often, and have higher rates of allergies and asthma.
There are many evidence-based resources, tools and support services available to help older smokers quit. So, if your previous attempts didn’t stick, it’s a great time to make this the year you finally go smoke free.
Are you ready? Here are some questions to ask if you’re over 60 and considering starting to quit..
- HOW STRONG IS MY ADDICTION TO NICOTINE?
You’ve known smoking is bad for you for decades. But nicotine is highly addictive, making it hard to stop. Have a health care provider or pharmacist assess your addiction level so that you are aware of, and can prepare for, the specific physical and psychological challenges long-time smokers face when giving up nicotine, including irritability, anxiety, depression and insomnia.
- DO I NEED THE HELP OF A PRESCRIPTION DRUG?
Prescription smoking cessation medications, like bupropion and Chantix, and prescription-only nicotine replacement inhalers and nasal sprays can reduce the urge to smoke. Better still, prescription drugs are covered by most Medicare plans. Schedule a consultation with your healthcare provider or pharmacist to learn about prescription treatment options and how the right combination of medications can give you the best chance of a successful quit attempt.
- WILL STOPPING SMOKING AFFECT MY CURRENT MEDICATIONS?
Older adults often take more medications than other age groups, so it’s important to talk to your pharmacist to see if yours interact with smoking. Medication levels can change if you stop smoking, and some people need to have their doses adjusted for a smoke-free body.
- WHAT ARE MY PERSONAL HEALTH REASONS TO QUIT NOW?
Health problems are always scary, but a new diagnosis or an upcoming surgery can be powerful motivators to quit. For example, smoking greatly increases your risk of complications, sometimes fatal, during and after an operation. If you are scheduled for surgery, there may even be special programs designed to help you kick the habit. Talk to your health care provider and pharmacist about what you need to know to stay healthy and smoke free before and after your surgical procedure.
- HOW DO I PREPARE MY HOME?
The signs you’re a smoker have probably been accumulating in your life for years. In addition to tossing out your cigarettes, do a thorough sweep of your home and belongings to remove “smoking stuff”—lighters, matches and ashtrays all need to go. Washing clothes, cleaning your carpets and deep cleaning your car will also help you avoid the familiar smell of cigarette smoke.
- DO I HAVE A SUPPORT SYSTEM?
Share your decision to quit with your spouse, children, friends or coworkers and suggest ways they can be encouraging to you. If you’re retired and living alone like many older adults, you may be lacking a constant stream of family, friends and coworkers to hold you accountable and help you handle the emotional strains of life without cigarettes. Ask your healthcare provider about support groups that may be available or simply stop by your pharmacy to chat with a pharmacist when you are struggling.
With all the resources and solutions available to help you quit smoking, there has never been a better time to try. No method is guaranteed to work for everyone, so talk to your health care provider or pharmacist today about what plan is best for you. And remember, it’s never too late to reap the rewards of a smoke-free life.
Jeff Kintner, PharmD
Pharmacist at Pharmacy at the Polyclinic