Have you been smoking for years? It might seem hard to quit, but it’s never too late to change your habits.
Quitting smoking can improve your health, regardless of your age or the number of years you’ve been smoking. Are you ready to have more energy, breathe easier, and save money? Here’s how you can quit smoking.
What Smoking Does to Your Body
Smoking harms your health and contributes to many health concerns. Smoking is a leading cause of illness and death in the U.S. and it can harm nearly every organ in your body.
More than 16 million Americans have diseases caused by smoking or other health issues, including:
- Heart disease, heart attack, and stroke
- Lung disease, such as bronchitis
- Type 2 diabetes
- Respiratory illnesses, such as pneumonia
- Obstructive pulmonary disease
- Immune system disjunction
According to the CDC, smoking causes 480,000 deaths in the United States each year, including 41,000 deaths related to secondhand smoke. Not only does smoking increase the risk of illness, but those who smoke also have a shorter life expectancy. People who smoke may die up to 10 years sooner than those who don’t smoke.
What About Vaping?
Tobacco use can harm your health, and it’s not just cigarettes that are to blame. Alternatives, such as vaping, chewing tobacco, or smoking cigars, pipes, and hookahs, aren't better for your health. Consuming tobacco in any of these ways may increase your risk of cancer, respiratory illnesses, and heart disease.
Vaping is sometimes used as an alternative to smoking cigarettes, but smoking e-cigarettes can still harm your health. Vaping cartridges contain nicotine, along with other chemicals such as vegetable glycerin, propylene glycol, or diacetyl. Breathing in these substances can continue to harm your health.
If you plan to quit smoking, it’s best to stay away from vaping or other smoking alternatives.
Reasons to Quit Smoking
Whether you’ve been smoking for a few weeks or 40 years, quitting smoking will improve your health. When you stop smoking, you will:
- Breathe more easily
- Lose the rattle in your throat
- Enjoy the taste and smell of food more
- Have more energy
- Lower your risk of heart disease
- Lower your risk of cancer and lung disease
- Improve your blood circulation
Quitting smoking plays an important role in healthy aging. When you quit smoking, you’ll improve your overall health and well-being. You’ll get your energy back, have the stamina to chase your grandkids around the park, and even add years to your life. You’ll also be setting an example for your family and friends by promoting healthy living.
What About Secondhand Smoking?
You’re not the only one affected when you light up a cigarette. Secondhand smoke from cigarettes, pipes, and cigars can also cause health problems for your loved ones. If your family, grandkids, friends, or even pets are exposed to secondhand smoke, their health is at risk. Secondhand smoke also contains hundreds of toxic chemicals that can harm the people around you. Exposure to secondhand smoke can lead to heart disease or cancer. Children exposed to secondhand smoke are more likely to have lung disease, respiratory infections, ear infections, and asthma attacks. Quitting smoking improves your health and ensures that your loved ones breathe clean air.
Is It Hard to Quit Smoking Later in Life?
Quitting smoking as an older adult can seem daunting—but it’s not as hard as you might think! Anyone can quit smoking at any age, and it’s never too late to improve your health.
The first few days may be the hardest. Nicotine is an addictive substance that makes you crave your next cigarette. When you miss your smoke break you may feel symptoms of withdrawal, including cravings, hunger, and irritability. You may also have a headache, feel sad or depressed, and/or have a harder time sleeping.
However, after the first few days without smoking, the symptoms of withdrawal fade. You won’t crave your next cigarette as strongly, so it becomes easier to resist the urge to smoke.
Within hours of putting out your last cigarette, you’ll also start to see the benefits of giving up smoking. You will notice improvements in your breathing, energy, and more.
What Happens to Your Body When You Quit Smoking?
Whether you’re 40, 60, or 80, it’s never too late to quit smoking. And regardless of your age, the health benefits begin within minutes of smoking your last cigarette.
- Within an hour of putting out a cigarette, your heart rate stabilizes and your blood pressure starts dropping.
- During the first few hours, circulation improves.
- One day after your last cigarette, nicotine levels in your body drop back to zero.
- Within a few days, carbon monoxide levels in your blood also return to normal. You’ll start to notice improvements in energy levels.
- Within the first few months, your breathing becomes stronger. Say goodbye to shortness of breath and that smoker’s cough!
- After a year without smoking, your risk of having a heart attack decreases sharply.
- After 2–5 years, your risk of heart disease and cancer drops drastically.
Older adults who quit smoking will see the same benefits as younger adults. Your body can recover from years of smoking, and you’ll experience this same healing process. It all starts as soon as you put out that last cigarette.
How to Quit Smoking
Ready to commit to a healthier lifestyle? If you’re planning to quit smoking, keep these tips in mind.
- Make a resolution to quit. Decide that you will quit, pick a date, and tell your loved ones. This resolution and accountability will help you follow through with your plan to quit smoking.
- Have a plan. If you’ve tried quitting in the past, you know that some situations make you crave a smoke. Have a plan for what you’ll do in these situations. You could try taking a walk when you have cravings, avoid your normal smoking spot, or phone a friend rather than buying a pack.
- Use a replacement product. You may have an easier time quitting if you use nicotine gum or lozenges. Nicotine nasal spray can also help reduce cravings during the first few days.
Medicare Can Help
Medicare Part B covers 8 tobacco-use cessation counseling sessions. A counselor can help you make a plan to quit and help you during the process. You can also talk with your doctor for advice.
As a Clover Health member, you’ll have access to an on-call doctor or nurse practitioner whenever you need help and an over-the-counter allowance to stock up on lozenges, vitamins, and more. To find out more about Medicare Advantage plans, what’s included, and how we can help you quit smoking, call us at Clover Health at 1-800-836-6890 (TTY/TDD 711).
Resources For Quitting Smoking
Ready to quit? Talk to your doctor and use these resources to take that first step.
- Download an app. There’s an app for everything, even for quitting smoking. Find a mobile app that supports you as you quit smoking. You can track your cravings, get daily reminders, track days without smoking, and find resources to learn more about what you’re experiencing.
- Sign up for SmokefreeTXT, offered by the National Cancer Institute. You will get daily encouraging texts.
- Call the quit-smoking hotline. If you need to talk to a trained counselor, you can call the Smoking Quitline at 1-800-4-CANCER or connect to your state's Quitline at 1-800-784-8669.
You Can Do It!
It’s never too late to put out your last cigarette! Quitting smoking later in life doesn’t have to be hard. With the right healthcare plan and the appropriate support, you can quit smoking and improve your health and well-being. You’ve got this!
Published on 8/3/21
Photo credit: Getty