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Seniors benefit from giving up smoking

November 17, 2012
Submitted by Carol Tomlinson RN BS, community health educator for HealthLink Littauer , The Leader Herald

Everyone has heard about the many dangers of smoking. For years smoking has been associated with lung cancer, and now we are learning more about the relationship of smoking to other chronic conditions such as heart disease, emphysema and COPD. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S. It costs our country almost 2 billion dollars each year.

Did you know that seniors age 65 and older benefit extensively from giving up smoking? Unfortunately many people, including some physicians, have the opinion that older smokers are less likely to quit and that they should be allowed to smoke in order to "enjoy their final years." According to a recent article in the Journal of the American Medical Association entitled "The Older Smoker," seniors are more than twice as likely to succeed at quitting as younger adults and have almost 10 times more health benefits!

The CDC notes that tobacco cessation has both immediate and long-term benefits for seniors and there are new techniques to help older adults stop smoking. Even for those who are already ill with tobacco related diseases - quitting reduces mortality, reverses respiratory symptoms, and improves quality of life. It reduces the risk of heart attack and stroke, and may even stop some of the cognitive decline of the brain functioning due to smoking.

One example of a chronic disease prevalent in the older population that is profoundly affected by tobacco is diabetes. The American Diabetes Association estimates that approximately 10.9 million adults or 26.9 percent older than age 65 have been diagnosed with diabetes in the U.S. While only about 9 to 10 percent of diabetics in this age group smoke, the negative effects are profound and include:

It doubles the damage done to arteries.

Diabetic smokers are 3 times more likely to die of heart disease.

Smoking increases blood sugar levels making the diabetes harder to manage.

It weakens the action of insulin.

These diabetics are more likely to get nerve damage and kidney disease.

A diabetic who becomes a non-smoker has:

Better blood sugar control.

Better circulation.

Improved action of insulin.

Less risk of having nerve damage and kidney problems.

Lower blood pressure and cholesterol.

No matter how long you have smoked, your health will improve when you stop. You may not realize it but cessation has immediate effects too. For example:

In one day:

1). Blood circulation increases.

2). Carbon dioxide in the blood decreases.

3). Heart rate and blood pressure decrease.

4). The risk of having a heart attack decreases.

Within several days or weeks:

1). Sense of taste and smell improves.

2). Lung capacity increases.

3). Breathing becomes easier.

The good news is that smoking cessation counseling is paid for by Medicare, and Part D drug plans cover the medications. It is all up to you. Remember, it is never too late to stop smoking.

For more information, contact your healthcare provider, N.Y.S. Smokers' Quitline at 1-866-697-8487 or, or HealthLink Littauer at 736-1120. People can e-mail us at, see our website at, or visit our wellness center at 213 Harrison St. Ext. in Johnstown, Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.



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