Never Too Late for Seniors to Quit Smoking
6/27/2012 10:21 AM
While it is true that adults over age 65 have about half the national rate of smokers in their ranks, being 65 or older is still the right time for anyone with the habit to quit. In the 2009 National Health Interview Survey, more than one in five adults 18 years of age or older claimed to be regular smokers. More men were smokers than women, the poor were greater smokers than other income brackets, and the good news is that by adults reached age 65+, their rate fell to only about one in eleven who were smokers. Some of these persistent smokers may feel that by the time they reach this age that it will not help to quit or that they may not have any great risk of anything happening at that point. Wrong!
Quitting at any age can reverse the ill effects of smoking. In studies among smokers who had the habit for even thirty years, lung function improves, cardiovascular health improves and even the risk of a heart attack begins to go down once a person quits. Also, seniors appear to be better able than younger smokers to actually stop once they are in a smoking cessation program. That’s the good news, but there are some other reasons to quit smoking:
- In a long term study, researchers in California found that heavy smoking through mid-life and forward increases the risk of Alzheimer’s by 157% and the risk of vascular dementia by 172%.
- Smokers in another study were shown to have measurably more muscle or joint pain as they aged. Scientists think this is because nicotine may decrease a person’s threshold for pain.
- Smokers’ cough also leads to poor outcomes if a patient requires back or other orthopedic surgery. The abdominal pressure of coughing evidently puts a lot of stress on the back or other joints.
- Smoking is the number two risk factor for age-related macular degeneration (AMD). The number one risk is simply aging itself.
And you have all seen the price of a package of cigarettes. That is nothing compared to the medical costs of smoking, because almost all medical conditions are made worse if a person smokes. The American Medical Association recently released numbers that showed that the annual cost to the U.S. from the disease and deaths related to smoking totaled more than $300 billion. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services estimates that smoking related health issues represent about 10 percent of their annual budget. Taking all of this into account, then, it seems that quitting smoking at any age not only makes sense; it also makes a lot of cents.
If you are interested in learning more about smoking or how seniors can get help with programs to quit the habit, go to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services web site and search for smoking cessation.
Charlotte Bishop is a Geriatric Care Manager and founder of Creative Case Management, certified professionals who are geriatric advocates, resources, counselors and friends to older adults and their families in metropolitan Chicago. Please email your questions to Charlotte Bishop.